December 05, 2012

Vietnamese soup and a dog update


Years ago, while we were living in Australia for six months, we visited the city of Ballarat so we could take the kids to the re-created gold mining town at Sovereign Hill. Sovereign Hill depicts Ballarat's first ten years after the discovery of gold there in 1851. There are more than 60 buildings, and costumed staff who serve as townspeople-guides. Many of the buildings were operating as they would have been in the 1860s — the bakery turned out baked goods in a stone hearth, the foundry produced household wares, etc. Anyway, we were in a building with a large hearth, and someone was baking loaves of flatbread and handing them to visitors. I was starving, and the bread appeared to be very basic and vegan, so I accepted one and took a bite. It had seeds that I didn't recognize, but as I started chewing I was hit with a horrible recognition. "It's fennel," I gasped to my husband. A giant wave of nausea passed over me as I tried to figure out where to spit the bread before it was too late. I actually don't remember what I did, just the extreme fennel-panic I felt as the taste hit my tongue. Fennel has been a problem for me since childhood.

For the past few years I've been trying to overcome certain food aversions, and fennel/anise/black licorice is one of them. I've learned that when baked, the taste of fennel root changes and I can eat it — nervously — but I do think it tastes good. I don't know that I'll ever be able to eat black licorice, but if the flavor of star anise is mild enough, I now can eat and enjoy it. But "mild" is the key, and I mean very mild.

My husband loves pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, and there are tons of pho shops around here, many of which make vegan pho. It's a perfect, light take-out supper on nights when we don't feel like cooking. That is, it would be a perfect dinner, except that the stock is traditionally flavored with star anise. When the anise flavor is mild, I enjoy the soup, but when it's strong, I feel like gagging. My husband found a recipe for pho in the New York Times. He made the broth without star anise, so there would be no question of whether or not I'd eat it, and I loved it. I didn't miss the anise at all. :D

The pho we get in the shops is served with rice noodles, but my husband used 100% buckwheat noodles — a nice variation. The soup was great and I recommend it! You could make it with star anise if you like the stuff and want your broth to be more authenic.

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Callie

I've gotten a couple of requests for a dog update, and truthfully, I've been restraining myself or I'd be publishing photos of her every day. I sat her down for a photo session and am sharing a few photos with you. She's still the cutest dog in the world, and as sweet and cuddly as can be. She barks now, but only once or twice if she feels it's really necessary. She's always by my side and follows me from room to room.


We had a problem leaving her alone because she cried and howled when we left, but she seems much better now, though she gets into a little trouble when left by herself. Nothing serious, but she obviously entertains herself when alone.


When we took her to the vet we learned she had ear infections in both ears, but otherwise seems in good health. Because she's a rescue dog, the vet didn't charge us for her first visit, which was a nice surprise.


The weirdest thing is although she's about two years old, and considered full-grown, she seems bigger than when we first got her. Maybe her hair is growing, but both of us have noticed it. Probably our imagination, right?

41 comments:

  1. Hi! Just found your blog and started following- what a great hub for vegan networking! If you get time, do check out my 2 blogs:http://theyogivegetarian.blogspot.co.uk/ which is mainly vegan (the first year's posts are lacto-veg) and http://vegancookonabudget.blogspot.co.uk/ which me and my husband have just started a few days ago.
    Any suggestions would be most welcome!

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Sarojini. I'll definitely check out your blogs.

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  2. Great looking soup!

    However, I believe that Callie steals this post. She's SO adorable! You really got some great captures of her, too. What a beautiful little model.

    Is it possible that she was a little bit underweight when you got her and she's starting to fill out now? She looks very healthy and I'm glad that she has nothing more serious than an ear infection. I just love her!

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    1. I was told she weighed 10 pounds when I adopted her and she weighed 12+ at the vet. He said her weight seemed ideal and I should keep her there. Maybe her hair growing out a little makes her look bigger, but she feels bigger and her legs seem longer. I must be imagining it. (I also removed a tick from under her arm.)

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  3. i love pho. i can eat a bowlful and then another :)

    I agree.. Callie steals the post. she is looking fuller than in previous posts:) so sweet of the vet. where is this vet, i need a good one for chewie. our pom was underweight coz of neglect at 6.6 lbs when we adopted him, full grown too at 3 years. Now he weighs 11, keeps going a half up and down, but sticks at it even though the vet wants him to be 9 lbs. its really hard to cut down his food :) so i am letting him be till he keeps steady at the weight. i thought he would lose some on a vegan diet. no such luck. he isnt satisfied with one cauliflower floret and always asks for 2-3 more.

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    1. The vet is Dr. Bernstein at Aurora Veterinary Hospital. We really like him a lot. We also like Dr. Sowell.

      11 lbs seems like a lot for a pom, but I know what you mean about how hard it is to limit food. Now that Callie is at a good weight, I'm going to give her the amount she's supposed to get — not as much as she wants.

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    2. we give him portion at set meal times, so the food isnt lying around. but most times he is never satisfied with the amount, and if given a little more he will eat it and sit without asking for scraps or generally creating a ruckus. he is stuck at the 11 lbs since a few years now, so we dont worry as much. It was worrisome when every 3 months he would be an lb heavier.:) i think 10-11 is his ideal weight :) he is a slightly larger pom. thanks for the info on the vets!

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  4. I can see why you want to put pictures of Callie every day - that is one cute dog!

    I'm with you on star anise - I'm not a fan. Here and there, it's OK, but it's such a strong flavour, there's always a risk it'll overtake all the other flavours in a dish.

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    1. Maybe I should have named her Cutie!

      There are other food things I'm not fond of, but a strong shot of anise or fennel actually makes me want to puke. I didn't realize there were so many others who felt the same.

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  5. You are a champ--I can't stand fennel in any way shape or form...raw, cooked, roasted, etc. Yuck! My mother and my sister both like it, though, and last year when we were all together for something we made roasted veggies and it was in the mix. I mistakenly ate some and blech! It makes me shudder just thinking about it, lol ;-)

    Courtney

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    1. Maybe we should form a fennel support group. :) I actually like it baked or roasted, because it doesn't taste like fennel. But, I have to get past the fact that it IS fennel, in order to enjoy it.

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  6. The soup sounds delicious! I know what you mean about fennel. It doesn't make me nauseous, but I definitely prefer to use it sparingly. When I'm making a veggie sausage, fennel adds a nice flavor. However, for almost anything else, I omit it. I've had too many occasions where I followed the recipe to a tee and afterwards felt I would have liked it, if not for the fennel. I haven't had loads of experience with star anise. I used it recently in an Ethiopian recipe and didn't notice any negative effects, but I'll keep it in mind for the future that too much may be unfavorable flavor-wise.

    Callie is so cute!! More photos of her are always welcome!

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    1. I never include anise or fennel in anything, as a matter of fact. There are certain problems, though. Star anise is one of the ingredients in 5-spice powder, much to my chagrin, so I can only use the tiniest amount. I should probably make my own 4-spice powder!

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  7. No disrespect to your Pho, but yay for the dog update! I don't know about bigger, but she definitely looks more adorable, that's for sure. Hard to believe the luck that one day she was in a shelter and the next in your loving, vegan home.

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    1. I really am lucky! As are you.

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  8. Note to self: Don't have a heart attack when seeing "Vietnamese Soup" and "Dog" in the same headline...LOL! Thanks for both of these, Andrea!

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    1. that looks amazing and you pup is adorable!

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    2. Glory,
      You're not the first to react that way, but as I pointed out to a friend who sent me an email about my "provocative" title, this is a vegan blog. No worries about any animals showing up on the menu!

      Thanks, LM14, We think she's pretty cute!

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  9. Your pho looks great, I've only made it once and have been meaning to cook it again but my husband isn't the biggest fan. I loved reading your story about Sovereign Hill in Ballarat - it's only a few hours drive from my house but I haven't been there since I was a child.

    Callie is absolutely adorable, she is a lucky girl to have found such a great home.

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    1. Ballarat was quite an experience — we could barely drag one of our sons away from panning for gold in the stream! I still have the wok I purchased in the foundry. The wok made all the difference in my cooking comfort in our Australian kitchen, which was not well-equipped with suitable pans!

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  10. What a sweet little face! Each picture has its own personality - you could post puppy pictures every single day and you would never hear me complain! Her curly hair is so fabulous! I'm glad to hear she has settled down and bonded with you. Surely she will get over the howling blues eventually. She's a lucky pup to have ended up with you guys!

    That bread experience sounds awful! I like anise and fennel, but I replaced the word "fennel" in your story with the word "cherries" so I could relate! :D

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    1. I love Callie's hair — so thick and soft.

      Cherries? You don't like cherries? It's so interesting to hear what foods people don't like.

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  11. That soup looks stellar!! I love fennel, but I can see how it's one of those things that people like or hate. Making pho at home is the way to go in my opinion...and you can load it up with all sort of treats of choice; the buckwheat noodles sound like a good variation. I went o buy some the other day at whole foods, and they were $$$$, what's up with that? Have you notice the price of miso has rocketed too? Or is it just me not remembering how much things usually cost?

    Anyway, Callie is adorable! I'm sure nobody would mind if you posted pics everyday! What a darlin'!

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    1. I agree that making pho at home is way better than buying it at the local pho shop. I've seen the big bags of "flavoring" you can buy at Uwajamaya and I always cringe a little when I imagine the contents of that bag in my soup. Eeww. Buckwheat noodles have always been expensive, but they do seem very high these days. We usually buy them at Uwajamaya so I haven't looked at the price at WF lately. Same with miso. The thing about miso, though, is it seems to last forever, while the noodles are gone in a flash!

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  12. Callie is so cute! Maybe her fur is getting thicker as it gets colder? I don't have a lot of experience with curly furry dogs, but they sure are cute.

    I love pho! I know what you mean, sometimes the anise can be a bit strong. That is why I always had my absolute favorite place in Seattle for pho and everywhere else was inferior. I would love to make my own, because then I could omit the sugar! I've been wanting to for awhile. I can get a good pho here, but of course not AS good as Seattle.

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    1. Thanks. We think she's pretty cute.

      Now you have me wondering what your favorite Seattle pho place was. I trust your judgement.

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  13. I think google just ate my comment. Callie is too cute. She looks so smart.

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    1. Disqus eats mine frequently. So annoying. Callie seems very smart to me, but maybe it's because she tries so hard to please.

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  14. I love pho--we have so many Vietnamese restos here in Philly but I don;t know of any that make vegan pho, so I occasionally make it at home.

    Holy Doodle, Callie is precious--and so photogenic. She's so lucky to have you as her momma.

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    1. We'll be visiting Philly this month and I hope we have a chance to sample a restaurant or two. Our time is always so compressed when we're there.

      Sometimes I call her Callie-Doodle!

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  15. So you probably wouldn't have picked much of a fight with me over my Great-Aunt Marie's Italian Anise Bread then, huh? :-) Everyone in my family loves black licorice (and my mother is downright rabid for it), so maybe it's a genetic thing. But Rose is right, that's a flavor that never inspires a "meh" response, people either seem to love or hate it. I must say, although I like it, I don't like it in everything. (Though I sure loved those little anise breads, which Aunt Marie called "Anici" (an-EE-chee) and which were more like a biscotti, and wish I could figure out how to McDougallize the recipe!)

    I've had vegan Vietnamese food once, in San José, CA 11 years ago, and I loved it but I don't recall if I had pho. I've heard lots of vegans rave about it though, and it sure looks yummy!

    Callie is so photogenic and adorable, I hope we'll be seeing lots more of her on your blog! I especially love the second photo, where she has her head cocked to the side. How confident were the shelter people about her age? Maybe they underestimated it and she's still growing after all?

    Happy Hannukah to you all!

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    1. Nope. You could have it all. My family loves black licorice, too, so maybe it doesn't run in families. Cilantro is another flavor that brings out strong opinions, though I like it.

      Callie's age was estimated independently by two different vets based on her teeth and her eyes. Both said two, so we're assuming they're right. She's probably just gaining weight and growing out her hair. And maybe I wasn't paying super close attention to her size. We could have found a smaller dog, but not a nicer one!

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  16. I accidentally erased three comments so here they are:

    foodfeud has left a new comment on your post "Vietnamese soup and a dog update":

    Callie looks so sweet. I'm glad it seems she's settling in!
    Funny story about the fennel! Ha! Sorry to hear it sprung up on you like that.

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    1. Callie is doing great and is the best dog I could hope for.

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  17. blessedmama has left a new comment on your post "Vietnamese soup and a dog update":

    I remember your feelings about fennel. Do not worry, I am making up for your lack of eating it. I love it!

    I am so glad you have Callie. What a sweetheart. She has such a serious expression in those photos. She is one lucky, little doggie.


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    1. I'm sure fennel is delicious — to some. As for Callie — she does have a serious expression, even when she's having fun.

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  18. chow vegan has left a new comment on your post "Vietnamese soup and a dog update":

    I love pho! But I found out the hard way, most places around here use a meat-based broth unless it's a vegetarian restaurant. Making it at home is the one to go.

    Caliie is like the cutest dog! She's clearly thriving with you! :-)

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    1. Even when the pho broth is vegan, I can't help but be nervous about what's in it. I'd be surprised if it were made from actual vegetables rather than chemicals and "flavorings".

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  19. The same thing happened when I rescued my pup- they said she was full-grown, but she seems to have grown. I'm guessing it's just proper nutrition, rest, and love that allows them to have those later in life growth spurts. :-)

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    1. Hmmm. I was thinking that sane thing. I guess I won't be able to sneak her into stores and movies. :D

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