This is what happens when your boss is seriously ill and you need to hold the fort while she’s recovering: you find yourself breathless from rushing to and fro, following up this or that document, looking into this or that issue, rewriting brochure copy, starting new drafts, compiling news articles for one purpose or another. It drains you. It exhausts you. It pretty much kills your appetite and leaves you limper than an overcooked noodle. (Rather appropos, don’t you think, seeing how the stress has also pretty much overcooked your brain?)
Times like these, you have to really get over the loss of your appetite and fortify yourself. With the boss down and out, it will not pay for you to fall apart even if your own body is screaming for relief. You need to keep up your strength, stay focused, and step up to the plate – even if your knees are quaking and your heart seems to falter. I mean, really: how will anything get done?!
But when your appetite has been deadened by the turmoil around you, a plain ol’ salad or a skinny sarnie may not be the best thing to nosh on. However, this might not also be the time for a steak dinner with all the trimmings; you might find yourself drowsy with the weight of mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and whatnot. No: times like these call for the refreshing, restorative flavours and textures of Indochinese cuisine. This is a situation that calls for bún thịt nướng.
Bún thịt nướng is a Vietnamese dish that was first created in South Vietnam. It is something of a hybrid between stir-fried noodles and a cold salad because of what’s in it: thin white rice noodles (bún) and slices of grilled pork (thịt nướng) on top of a pile of fresh vegetables: shredded lettuce, julienned carrots and jicama, torn-up purple basil, spring onions, and finely chopped coriander leaves [cilantro]. A sweet dressing made with rice vinegar, nước chấm [fish sauce], and pickled carrots is poured over before serving. It is similar in substance to bún chả from Hanoi in Northern Vietnam, but bún chả is more of an assemble-it-yourself meal with a thicker-textured dipping sauce as opposed to the single-bowl serving method employed for bún thịt nướng.
I had a lovely bowl of bún thịt nướng at Pho Hoa recently, seeing how I was in the mood for some serious sustenance. The bowl I opted for was the bún thịt nướng chả giò which comes with deep-fried egg rolls (chả giò) along with the grilled pork. It was a lovely mixture of contrasting flavours and textures, really. All the vegetables were fresh and crunchy, each with its own sort of sweetness to go with the smoky savour of the pork and the meaty and spicy egg rolls. The soft, bland noodles played well against the sharpness of everything else and absorbed the sweet dressing beautifully. It is best, by the way, to just drizzle a little of the dressing over the lot because you only really need a little of the stuff to bring out the flavour of the other ingredients.
Having fed so gloriously, I managed to have the strength to cope with the rest of my day as I had a full belly and a well-fortified soul.