The other day, I got a big bowl of pho from Nam Wah Chinese & Vietnamese Cuisine, a restaurant in Berea, Ohio. It’s a humble little place, which pleased me because I don’t trust any pho that comes from fancy-looking places. My number one pho rule — the fancier the restaurant, the more suspicious the pho.
In addition to the pho, I also ordered the deli sandwich, which is the traditional banh mi dac biet and the only banh mi that matters in my opinion. I got irrationally furious when Buzzfeed employees rated the sandwich so low in a video. The glorious sandwich was part of my childhood, and it makes Subway sandwiches look like the piles of mediocrity they are. #ShotsFired (I will retract this statement if Subway offers me a sponsorship. I’m a struggling writer. I will sell my integrity for a high enough price #JustKidding #KindOf #OkayNotReally #GimmeThatMoneySubway)
To start, I dug into the banh mi dac biet.
Inside the baguette were thin slices of cha lua (a type of Vietnamese pork sausage), slices of Vietnamese ham, strips of carrot, cilantro, cucumbers, daikon (when I was a child with no taste, I used to take the radish out of my banh mi because I thought it was gross; now I recognize how the banh mi is incomplete without daikon), homemade pate, and jalapeños.
Because I was so hungry, I let out a little moan when I took a bite. The plentiful cold cuts were perfectly complemented by the fresh and flavorful vegetables. No sad iceberg lettuce here, unlike a certain chain (*cough* Subway). And the homemade pate was delectable (when I was a child with no taste, I would scrape the pate off the bread because I thought it was icky. Also, when I was a kid, I liked Subway #ShotsFiredAgain).
I tried to savor the sandwich, but I devoured it within a few minutes.
Lucky for me, I still had my bowl of pho left.
I got the pho with flank steak and beef brisket. It was served with basil leaves, cilantro, jalapeños, a lime wedge, and a bunch of bean sprouts.
The beef broth was piping hot, light yet flavorful, and so comforting. I poured it over the thin and soft rice noodles, beef, and vegetables. At some pho joints, they’re really stingy with the meat, and I have to hunt for a few very thin, very small beef pieces. Fortunately, there was plenty of beef in my pho.
Everything in my bowl was fresh, and all together, it was the perfect meal to wash away my writer's blues. 2021 marks the first year that I tried to make it as a full-time writer, and it's been a struggle. There have been many ups and downs (and more downs than ups to be honest).
But after I finished my meal, I reminded myself that I’m only 26. I still have plenty of time to try to make a career out of my writing. If financial worries compel me to go back to a soul-sucking day job, it’ll undoubtedly suck, but it won’t be the end of the world, and I’ll still be able to write even if I won’t be able to focus on it full-time.
I know I should drag myself out of this sea of self-pity. I have to if I want a chance of making this writing thing work. And I really should finish my dang novella.
But it’s also okay to drown my sorrows in a bowl of good pho from time to time.
If you’re ever in the Cleveland area and hungry for Vietnamese food, here is Nam Wah’s Facebook page. Located at 392 W Bagley Rd, Berea, OH 44017.