Saying Goodbye: Vietnamese Noodle Salad Bar

I'm so tired that I'm practically blogging with my eyes closed.  But I have to write about this.  I've been think about it a lot. 

We had death in the family recently.  My husband's uncle passed away...he surrendered to Cancer.  I also lost one of my uncles to Cancer a few months ago.  Cancer can be a stealthy and silent serpent, creeping upon it's prey.  It envelops its victim by building a circular perimeter using it's body and then twisting in and creeping closer and tighter, until there's no escape.  (Can you tell I've been watching Planet Earth series?  Actually, it's not from Planet Earth...it's more like Kaa from The Jungle Book.)   I was a little more detached from the emotion at the time, simply because I didn't know him for many years, as did everyone else in the family.  Still, the air was very heavy and the silence was deafening. 

Most guests wear white or a very light color to Indian funerals, to represent the absence of color, unless of course you're driving straight from work, in which case you feel like you're the one person wearing herringbone pants and plum blouse.  It was an open casket funeral, followed by a cremation.  I've lost many aunts, uncles, and grandparents, but this was the first funeral I've been to where I was present for the cremation.  When your relatives are oceans away, you miss the closure.  My parents have lost at least 2 siblings each, and it must be unbearable to miss the moment to say goodbye, to release, to share the emotional suffocation with other loved ones who are equally hurting.  The irony is that one comes to America for freedom and opportunity, yet is captive in the boundaries of the continent, enduring many punishments, like this one. 

At the funeral I listened to the words spoken by his family.   It's interesting how all of the radiant qualities of a person are only embossed on a body once the soul has left it.  Words are never so beautifully embroidered until they are quiet enough not to be heard.   Is there anyone not guilty of this? 

Every day that we've had our parents around is a good day.  Every day.  A blessing.  You can't really hear that appreciation sandwiched between the breathy Sigh when we answer the phone and the hostile "What, Mom?" but it's there.  Of course, I'm also thinking what others are thinking... "one day it's going to be my turn. and I'm going to have to say bye to one of my parents.  and i can't do anything about it.  and that's gonna suck. "  Then I was talking to my husband about this thought process.  That's what we women do.  We take a single brief thought and are very skilled at expounding it into a whole conversation.  I said "you don't know who you're going to lose, or when, or how.  Who says it's going to be one of our parents that goes first anyway?  I mean I could lose you...next week...in a car accident...the way you drive..."  
You don't need to know how the rest of the conversation went. 

Isn't our life just a game of poker?  You don't know what cards you were dealt.  You might start with Pocket Aces...a generous extension from God or Fate.  But a pair of Aces can all go to poo-poo if you see a suited sequence on The Flop. 

There's no way to know.  Just go All In.  All In.  But make sure you share some words before the River, while the pot is good.

Vegetarian Vietnamese Noodle Salad Bar (Bun Chay)
recipe from thekitchn.com with my notes in italics
Serves 2
Before you say goodbye to summer, do yourself a favor and make this.  I have made almost once a week this summer and it never gets old.  Easy, quick, and perfect for a post-workout meal...you know, so you don't flush all your hard work by eating a pizza!  The cooling flavors provide a refreshing relief during the brutal summer heat.


4 ounces dried rice sticks or vermicelli
1/2 pound extra firm tofu - I use less tofu
Vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup julienned cucumber
Large handful of mixed herbs, coarsely chopped or torn (basil, mint, cilantro; if available: rau răm or Vietnamese coriander, tiá tô or Vietnamese perilla)
2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms, lightly sauteed
2 scallions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons peanuts, chopped


1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add rice sticks. Stir and cook until noodles are white and tender but still firm, about 3-5 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water, fluffing the noodles to separate the strands. Drain again completely.
2) Cut tofu into bite-size pieces and press between clean kitchen towels or paper towels to rid of excess water. Heat oil in a skillet and fry tofu until crispy and golden. Drain excess oil. I don't do that part...after work, and exercise, I don't have tofu time.  Just throw it in!
3) Prepare the greens and set aside. (May be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.)
In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for sauce. Set aside. (May be prepared ahead of time kept in the refrigerator.)
4)  Divide the noodles between two bowls. Arrange greens and tofu on top and garnish with peanuts. Just before eating, drizzle with sauce to taste and toss.


  1. I am so sorry to hear about your loved one. The service seemed really touching. And the noodles look great!


    1. Thanks, Lilly! I will stop by your site too!

  2. This post spoke to me on so many levels. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the recipe!

    1. Thanks 'shni! It means so much. It really does. Thanks for reading and supporting.

  3. This post should've come with a warning for hormonal new moms!!!!

    1. Awwww. :( I think it spoke to a lot of people, so you don't have to blame it on hormones. :)

  4. Such a beautiful post! Well said!!! All the nice words come out once the person is gone.... hmmm.. I will start being nice to everyone now :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Thanks, Rashmi. Yeah we say we're going to be nice and then we get back to our usual 'selves. lol. Thanks for reading! I hope the new school year is treating you well. :)

  5. Hi Amee: I am so sorry for your loss...but all of your words are so beautifully put...and those Vietnamese noodles look very, very comforting. I hope you find some peace and comfort in the days and weeks ahead.

  6. Made this last week and it was delicious! I used soba noodles (I had it on hand) and I did lightly pan-fry the tofu. Had it for lunch twice last week and I got lots of 'oohs and ahhs' from the cool kids that sit in the break room for lunch! :-)

  7. beautifully written Amee, and so very true. I love that we talk about our parents every time we are together. On another note, I just made this and it was not only so very tasty, but also GREAT for a family-friendly dinner, much like a taco bar.


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