Oh, Pho the love of … Pho

Remember that time when you were so broke you lived on noodles and soup? Well, I’ve been reliving that lately and it has nothing to do with the good ol’ college days. Yeah, of course, I’m on a shoestring, but I’ve been eating soup and noodles because I want to.

Pasta, pasta & more pasta

Ahhh, university days

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Why would I want to eat noodle soup day after day? Because it’s Pho!

What is pho? It’s… wait for it… soup! Pho (rhymes with “duh?”, not Moe, yo!) comes from Vietnam and there are different versions of it — North or South, beef (pho bo) or chicken (pho ga), and lord knows what other variations. Sometimes it’s called Tonkinese soup, or maybe that’s only in Montreal.

And why am I going on about Vietnamese soup? Because I learned how to cook it. And it is soooo good! I made it (two versions) three times so far, and they just keep getting tastier and tastier. Before you know it, mine will be just as good as the ones I had in Hanoi and HoChiMinh City*. You should see me around the house these days; I’m just a struttin’ proud with ma tail feathers up. Very difficult to pull off when you’re trying to type up a post.

Here’s how I became a pho-nomenal cook

If you read my cooking post in December, you might remember that I’ve teamed up with Michelle of Michelle’s Creations and Naomi of Barely Beige to synchronize review posts once a month. For January, we figured we’d warm our cold bones with Vietnamese Classics: Pho, Noodles & Beyond. (Sadly, for reasons beyond her control, Naomi will not be posting her review with us this month.)

Instructor: Andrea Nguyen (Books available in Canada at Amazon.ca or Indigo.ca) 
Class available at: Craftsy.com

While I love the courses Craftsy offers, I’m going to make this all about Andrea, the instructor. The class itself covers spring rolls & dipping sauce, and grilled pork skewers along with 3 different kinds of pho — Shortcut Chicken, Chicken and Beef. I apparently take better notes now than I did in school so here are the ones I made about Andrea’s teaching and the class:

  • She responds to students’ questions with honest and relevant answers. It took her a week to answer my 3 questions, but I understand she has other things to do and can’t sit online 24/7 waiting for a question.
  • She entertains the hell out of me as she slaps, whacks and smacks her ingredients into submission. And she makes no apologies to them because she’s the boss.
Smashed Ginger

I hammered that ginger real good and showed it who’s in charge

  • She knows her stuff and is so comfortable on camera, I could have sworn I was there in her kitchen sipping my pinot grigio and having a chat. (Speaking of which…)
  • I love, love, love her idea for having a pho party.
  • The one thing I wasn’t all gaga over was that the ingredient list is inconsistent. She talks about each one as she prepares it or adds it to the soup; the class materials have a list for all the recipes at the beginning; and each individual recipe has its own list. Somehow an ingredient or two got lost in translation. Digression: Standing in the already overwhelming Asian market trying to figure out which recipe calls for Thai basil while my BFF puts random things in my cart means I get to come home with extra groceries. (And thanks to her, I unwittingly violated a passerby with a yellow sweet potato.)
  • The course content is outstanding because not only does she teach us how to cook pho, but she takes us shopping for ingredients and explains the differences.
  • Andrea gives us a fascinating history lesson about the colonization of Vietnam. And it’s not like in your high school History class where you caught up on your sleep. She’s interesting. You barely notice that you’re learning history.
  • The way she talks about layers and undulations of flavour makes me want to take a bite out of my laptop screen.
  • I am now in possession of so many tips and tricks to use in all my other cooking, I think my other dishes are edible now. (jk, sorta. 😉 )


Andrea does use some utensils that aren’t typically found in a western kitchen. But OMG! they are so handy to have. I picked up the noodle strainer at the Asian market for $8, but I found the same thing on eBay for $4.

I bought the mesh skimmer online. It costs less on eBay than on Amazon but shipping is slower. I guess it all depends on how much time you have to wait before you get to pho-ing.

Fine mesh skimmer on Amazon here or eBay here
Noodle/dumpling strainer on Amazon here or eBay here


Photos of my soupy adventure:

I couldn’t start anything until the glass was half full.

Rocket fuel

Despite 3 shopping lists and all the extra groceries in my cart, I still came home with no dried shrimp to give my pho bo its umami. Time to improvise:

Frozen shrimp from Provigo’s freezer section


Shrimp bathing in briny chicken broth


Hoping that these little critters have developed that elusive “5th taste”: umami

After 5 hours sunbathing in the oven on dehydrate setting. 


Aromatics ready. For what? To get pounded, of course!


Beef broth does look pretty nasty before skimming.


Another bottle, ahem! … Another glass of fuel to help me get over that broth scum. Or just because…


Chicken breasts. ‘Nuff said!


Garnishes ready. (Not garnishees. We’re not talking about that.)


Finished Masterpieces of Culinary Otherworldliness

First batch of pho ga. Ate too much.


Pho bo. As Andrea says, “Luxury, right there!”


Second batch of pho ga. Just look at that succulent meat!


Hey! Stop ogling my breasts and keep up. (The boys in my Grade 5 class thought it was hilarious to call me Chicken Breast, because I was a little, um, tall and skinny.)

Are you convinced yet that you too should be living on soup and noodles? Or that you should at least learn how to toast more than pop tarts?

Here’s a sweet & spicy deal for you: From now until Jan 26, you can get this class — or any other Craftsy class — for only $14.99 USD with the coupon code 17JUST4U at checkout. But wait! (I said that in my best infomercial voice.) If you’re new to Craftsy, you can first use the code NEWSKILLS at checkout to get your first class for $14.99. Then you can use the other code for another class.

Did you catch that? Ok, one more time:

  1. Before the end of day Thursday January 26, go to Craftsy and put 1 class in your cart.
  2. If you are new to Craftsy, check out with the code NEWSKILLS and your class will be only $14.99. If you’re an old hand at this, skip to Step 4.
  3. Go back to Craftsy and put another class in your cart.
  4. Check out with the code 17JUST4U and you’ll only have to fork over $14.99 for this class.
  5. Enjoy your classes! And let me know if you make pho for yourself.

When you’re finished here, please go and check out my friend, Michelle’s take on the same class. She made some delectable goi cuon (rice paper rolls, with shrimp) and dipping sauce. You gotta taste it!

I’m out of photos so I’ll end my narrative with a word of sage advice: Do not, I repeat, do not!, consume these soups in the company of a goofball who makes you gigglesnort with a spoon in your mouth. Inhaling spicy noodles into your sinuses only becomes funny 30 minutes later when you can breathe again. I wish someone had warned me.


Marsha Law Sig2

PS. I have lots of leftovers so stop by, if you can find me.

* Great story of my travel companion’s first encounter with a dish of Thai chilis.




  1. Great post, and the soups all look SO good! Yum. I want some more Pho.

  2. You did a FANTASTIC job on the photos there Girl Friend! And the soups look tasty too! Great review!

  3. Pho Ga looks really delicous with the chicken! Enjoyed reading your post and great pictures 🙂

  4. Pho Go looks so delicious! Could def go for that! 🙂 Your pictures look awesome too! 🙂

  5. Love Pho. Have you seen her new cookbook?

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