I had stepped into 2020 brimming with optimism after having just turned the pages of an unpleasant chapter of my life. The fear of not knowing where I was headed had eased its grip on me and moving forward suddenly seemed less daunting. Eager to write a new story for myself, I took a deep breath, walked up to the edge of uncertainty and took a giant leap into the unknown. Doing so catalyzed the steps propelling my life forward out of limbo…only to be forced into another phase of perpetual suspension.
Around this time last year murmurs from the East about a strange respiratory condition started rippling around the globe. Small isolated clusters of cases began to pop up here and there, but public health officials were surprisingly slow to implement aggressive containment measures. The most resource rich nations that were first to see cases after China stood on the sidelines scratching their heads as though they were waiting for the infections to simply go away. Yet here we are, a year later and this virulent pest continues to devastate and spread like wildfire. And the light at the end of the tunnel still looks dim.
We’ve been living in this bizarre twilight zone for far longer than my liking. My motivation to do anything other than tend to my basic needs has died after having to dial down life’s tempo and go about things at half throttle for so long. It’s become increasingly frustrating to sequester myself from my family and friends on the other side of the ocean and to indefinitely defer my plans. I keep hearing that this is the moment to slow down, replenish and restore, but what’s too much rest and self-care? I’ve had enough downtime to last me through the end of the century. I’ve tried taming the urge to want to be in the next moment, like the moment when all of this will be over, but my patience tapped out sometime last fall.
There are moments where I feel like shrieking at the top of my lungs to release my pent up frustration and jolt myself out of my stupor. But I don’t. I instead find relief in books these days, escaping my reality by climbing into the stories of others. I usually have my nose buried in a book, but I couldn’t focus long enough to get through more than a couple of pages at a time last year. It was only during the Christmas holiday that I was able to unwind enough to find refuge in books once again. I’m already onto my eighth book this year.
I’ve also been turning more often to dishes that I can make in my sleep to soothe me. The simplicity and familiarity of these dishes wrap me in a warm blanket of comfort with every bite. When I’m low on creativity and motivation, I pull from my repertoire of these tried and true dishes. Bún riêu is among those dishes for me because I can whip it up in no time. Not only does it require minimal effort, it also has a satisfying combination of savory, slightly tart and umami flavors that hits the spot every time! This is the ideal dish for a brightly flavorful, yet light meal as we ease into spring.
Until next time,
Bún Riêu | Vietnamese Crab & Tomato Noodle Soup
- 6-7 Tomatoes cut into wedges
- 1 onion sliced
- 30 g seedless tamarind pulp
- 200 g crab paste
- 3 eggs
- 150 g fried tofu
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- Vietnamese perilla to garnish
- 1 package vermicelli rice noodles
- Heat the oil in a pot over high heat. Sauté sliced onion until fragrant. Add tomato wedges and sauté until they're about half cooked.
- Add about 1.5 liters of hot water to the pot along with the tamarind pulp. Turn the heat down to medium and allow to simmer covered for about 15 minutes.
- While the tomato broth is simmering, cook the vermicelli rice noodles according to the instructions. Rinse with cold water and strain.
- Beat the eggs with the crab paste. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and gently add the crab paste egg mixture one ladle at a time. Allow the broth to come back to a gentle boil. The crab paste mixture will rise to the top as it cooks. Add the fried tofu and let it cook for about another five minutes.
- Serve the broth over a bowl of the cooked vermicelli rice noodles. Garnish with chopped Vietnamese perilla and bird's eye chilis if you like it spicy.
And here’s a playlist for you to boogie to while you cook and enjoy this dish!