The Plague Soup

March 13, 2014

~requisite shitty photo, yo.


The plague hit us late last week and hasn’t let up since.

If I were a nicer human, I’d take time to thank the heavens that only I got the hacking and barfing variety; the girls were just snotty and miserable. But any time I get the barf-o-ramas, I’m an ungracious shit.  There will be no thank-you’s going anywhere. I’m still bitter.

I’m especially bitter because we were out of toilet paper (and milk, and fruit, and salad greens, and Diet Coke…you get the picture) while I was still feeling like a human ball of phlegm, so I had to shlep to the grocery store in my diseased state.

Bitter ladies do not belong in the grocery store. I was so foul and so gorked-out on Dayquil that I forgot that I was in public, in the produce aisle, and so I let loose with an expletive-laced tirade about an annoying song being piped through the Kroger sound system. I *may* have ordered a hit on the singer.

Luckily, there were very few patrons at the Kroger at 8:35 on a weekday morning. The girl with the nose ring in the Red Delicious apple section just laughed at me. Whew.

Note: only humans of the female persuasion came down with the plague. My darling husband never gets sick, that Tosser…although I guess I should be grateful, because someone’s gotta run this sinking ship. But then he had the audacity to leave town. He left me! That Tosser!

I was feeling mighty sorry for myself. I mean, not only did I have to weather the barfs, I had a fiery throat and a stuffy head riding shotgun. I was slamming cabinets and barking into the phone: “What?! Whaddaya Want?” Even Mozzy didn’t want to hang out with me.

Normally, when I get a cold, I hop in the car and get myself to the nearest decent Vietnamese joint for a steaming bowl of pho. Pho is my comfort food; I love the complexity of the spiced broth, the sleekness of the rice noodles, the meltingly rare slivers of beef, the bite of the mint and chile. It’s a KitchyWitchy hug in a bowl. And, when I’m nursing a cold, I add extra squirts of Sriracha to blast those nasal passages wide open. It’s the food equivalent of antibiotics. Or voodoo magic.

But, I was too germy to venture out.  And it was snowing, dangit. I was trapped…without pho. Serious suckage.

What’s a snot-filled-girl to do? Emergency measures were in order. Somehow, I had to create faux pho.

Luckily, I had some homemade chicken stock in the freezer. This is usually not the case at my house (I’m no Ina Garten), but some higher power was looking out for me. I also had cinnamon sticks, star anise, ginger and garlic in the house. Yes! Benefit of being married to an Indian dude: I have crap in my pantry that I never would have thought to have on hand in a previous life.

I defrosted the stock, threw in a teaspoon of grated ginger and minced garlic, followed up with a star anise and a cinnamon stick, stuck the lid on the pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

Now I think it wise to mention that the broth for genuine Vietnamese pho is a complex process and most likely takes days to make. But we’re talking desperation here. Plus, this is me, and I am lame and take shortcuts all the time.

Shortcut #2: I had a rotisserie chicken in my refrigerator (we slackers usually do). I shredded up the breast meat and set it aside to warm up. Hey, it’s not rare beef, but those in a soup emergency can’t fuss about details.

I boiled some rice noodles, stuck them in the bottom of a big bowl, added the chicken, a fistful of bean sprouts and sliced mushrooms, and some very thinly sliced onion, and ladled a huge amount of the broth over the whole shebang.

Luckily, I’d gone bonkers for a bunch of jalapenos a week earlier, so a rinse, a chop, and my soup was topped. I know other people will cry foul, but I added basil, too. I added a squeeze of lime and this was one happy girl.

I slurped, sweated, and sipped my way to bliss.  I even forgot to be bitter. For about 20 minutes.

Faux Pho serves 2 generously

4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon bottled grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise

dash soy sauce

4 oz. thin rice noodles, cooked

1 cup cooked chicken, shredded

very thin slices of onion

bean sprouts

shredded carrots or sliced mushrooms

fresh mint, basil and/or cilantro

jalapeno, serrano or Thai bird chiles,

thinly sliced wedge of fresh lime

Combine first six ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Fish out the anise and cinnamon and discard.

Divide the noodles into two large bowls. Divide chicken, onion and bean sprouts among bowls. Top with hot broth, fresh herbs, chiles and a squeeze of lime.

**If you really want to blast the yuckies out of your system, load up heavily on the chiles and ginger.  I was a fire-breathing dragon.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese March 13, 2014 at 5:48 am

Oh girl, I’m so sorry. A household of sick is bad enough, but when you’re sick too – and the only grown-up around? – the worst. Hope all of you are on the mend. Sending lots of love and sriracha (heard there’s some sort of global shortage?).



Dana Talusani March 13, 2014 at 7:18 am


I heard about the shortage, too! Guess who has FIVE backup bottles in her pantry?


Kim Jorgensen Gane March 13, 2014 at 7:12 am

Faux pho!? OMG, you crack me up! Feel better FAST, my friend!


Jennifer March 13, 2014 at 7:45 am

That definitely sounds like the plague. I hope you are all feeling better.


Biz March 13, 2014 at 9:08 am

Aw, sorry you were all sick! But spicy soup cures everything – I love simmering jalapenos in my broth. Although my husband thinks I’ve already burned all my taste buds off with all the spicy shit I eat!

Be well!


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri March 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm


You never lose your sense of humor, girl! I hope you are on the mend. I know exactly what you are talking about. We’ve had the same sniffles,etc. for the last 2 weeks.

Love the line about the Indian man and spices. That cracked me up.

Get better, my friend. xoxo


Shannon March 13, 2014 at 3:23 pm

So sorry about the barforama and phlegm. I would buy your Faux Pho even if it is called Plague Soup.


Alison March 13, 2014 at 7:00 pm

The sickies suck! Hope you feel better now.
The faux pho sounds delicious.


Barbara March 14, 2014 at 9:06 am

I don’t know why (and frankly, it will be ever so the rest of your life) you run out of necessities right when you feel like hell. YOU may feel like making faux pho or whatever, but all I want to do is open a can, or on rare occasions when I (accidentally) had homemade soup in the freezer, thaw a batch of whatever. I remember practically crawling to the store when they kids were little to get eggs. (We ate a lot of eggs on milky toast and egg drop soup at our house when anyone was sick)
If I got sick tomorrow, I don’t have a damn thing in the house I need, I just looked. Also, I remember gingerale…or coke, the cure-all in my day….don’t have a drop of it at the moment.
That old “plan ahead” sign is flashing in my head. Thank God I don’t have kids anymore. However, my DIL et al were down last week and actually wanted a thermometer…for herself. A thermometer??? Did I even own one? But I looked, and did, although the battery was dead. Then we found one of those REALLY old ones. Imagine that, I had two!
Hope everyone feels better.


Sherri March 15, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I’m diggin’ the faux pho…. sorry you had to prep it in your diseased state. Kudos the sense of humor when ill. I am …. um… not so nice when the plague hits.


elizabeth March 16, 2014 at 7:46 am

I am into that faux-pho and I am also very much a fan of a big, steaming bowl of soup to help blast out the phlegm. Feel better soon!


C. Troubadour March 16, 2014 at 11:33 am

There really is something restorative about hot soup. I’m completely impressed that you threw all that together while enduring the plague. If I’m queasy, food is a two-step process at best: put in container, place in microwave. Chopping? Simmering? Seasoning, too? Not happening.

As for the Kroger tirade, I’m still laughing. And now I have to ask: what song were they playing?


Lisa @ The Meaning of Me March 16, 2014 at 8:28 pm

So sorry your house has the plague – I think we may be past it here. But I would still eat a million bowls of this soup, sick or not. This sounds great – hope it was successful and that you are all feeling better!


Dana March 17, 2014 at 6:54 am

Pho is my magic cure all for sickness too. It’ll take a kick at what ails you, for sure. Hopefully the plague leaves your house soon.


Natasha March 18, 2014 at 5:53 am

I just found your blog from scary mommy, love this post! Even though you have the plague :/
Your inst-pho sounds pretty tasty-and this from someone who’s SO is Vietnamese, so we always have pho ingredients on hand. Im like you, love a huge amount of sriracha and lime in mine mmmmmn


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