I’m back in Buenos Aires, sitting in our favorite gluten-free café in Palermo, and as I sip on a steeping cup of hot green tea and eat a bit of the berry cheesecake that Juan ordered, I try to recollect my thoughts and memories from the intense month that’s just passed.
From mid-April to mid-May, I returned to Asia to be with my family and friends, and while the month spent back home was longer than the other annual trips that I usually make, it somehow flew by as quickly as it had arrived.
My parents retired last year -first my dad in July and later my mum in November- and perhaps them being retired and being able to spend more time with me made this trip all the more memorable. During the past four weeks, I’ve come to know them in a different way; our conversations have become deeper; we are getting to understand each other better.
I also turned 30 last November, and while age is not always correlated with maturity, the turning of the decade made something click inside of me. I’ve begun to see past myself in the last couple of years and am still learning to look things from a wider, more holistic perspective.
Living overseas for the past six years has allowed me to see things from a distinct perspective compared to when I was still living at home in Singapore. I’ve realized that while my parents may not be perfect, they are constantly doing their best – at each point in time, they are trying hard to give the most they are able to provide, whether we as children appreciate it or not.
I’m not a parent, but from our conversations with and my observations of my own parents and friends who are now parents, I’ve come to one undeniable conclusion – parenting is definitely one of the hardest things to do, ever.
I don’t think it’s possible to grasp the extent of how much my parents love us, but spending time with them, listening to their thoughts and fears, I’ve learnt that parents never ever stop loving their kids.
Parenting is a job for life, and whether we’re toddlers or thirty-year old professionals, I know deep inside that our parents will constantly be on the look out for us, praying for our safety, crying tears of worry, simply hoping for the best for our future. I don’t think my parents could quit caring for us children even if they wanted to. It’s simply not possible. And despite the mistakes they may have made, they’re only humans, and their love for us is still strong and evident in spite of them not being perfect.
During my trip back to Asia, I managed to spend a short but lovely five days with my parents in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City – whose humidity and intense dry season marked our stay. Yet despite the unbearably harsh heat, I will always remember this first trip to Vietnam because it was the destination for precious time spent with my parents. It’s been years since I’ve taken a trip with them alone without my siblings, and being with them in the city that was formerly known as Saigon will always be a special memory for me.
Today, back in Buenos Aires, I want to share a recipe for Vietnamese chicken pho, a simple dish of thin rice noodles, chicken broth, and shredded chicken. Pho was a dish that we ate almost every day in Ho Chi Minh, and now it is extra special to me because of our time in Vietnam.
You begin by combining chicken stock with water, fresh ginger, soy sauce and fish sauce in a large pot over high heat. Cover the pot and bring stock mixture to a boil, then bring heat down to low and allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes.
As the mixture simmers, place thin rice noodles in a heat-proof bowl and cover the noodles with boiling water, then let the noodles stand for at least five minutes or until they are tender, before separating them with a fork and draining well. When the stock mixture has finished simmering, remove the ginger and then stir in a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
All that’s left to do is to divide the noodles equally between two bowls, pour the stock mixture over, then top with shredded chicken and lime wedges, and garnish with mint leaves, coriander, and spring onions.
- 1 litre of reduced sodium chicken stock
- 2½ cups of water
- 1 small piece of ginger, peeled and halved
- 3 teaspoons of light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
- ½ pound of Vietnamese rice noodles
- 2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice
- 2 cups of shredded cooked chicken breast
- ½ cup of fresh mint leaves
- ½ cup of fresh coriander leaves
- ½ cup of fresh spring onions + lime wedges, for garnish
- Combine chicken stock, water, ginger, soy sauce and fish sauce in a large pot over high heat, then cover and bring to a boil.
- Bring heat down to low and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
- While stock mixture is simmering, place rice noodles in a heat proof bowl and cover it with boiling water.
- Let noodles stand for at least five minutes or until they are tender, then separate noodles with a fork and drain well.
- Remove ginger from the stock mixture, then stir in the fresh lime juice and allow to simmer one more minute.
- Divide noodles equally between two bowls.
- Pour stock mixture over the noodles, top with shredded chicken breast and then garnish with mint, coriander and spring onions. Serve with lime wedges.