Cooking a Homemade Meal on College Budget: Phở

big bowl of pho

By Sandy Nguyen

It’s that time again when school resumes and another year of studying and working at William Peace University is in full swing.

Many students are away from home for the first time while others are returning for the last few years until graduation.

New friends, more homework and different surroundings can make you homesick. Some can’t even go back for the weekend for Mom’s delicious cooking to help them survive the semester. The only thing to do is to learn to cook those meals you probably should have known how to make before leaving for college!

Mai Lor, a senior at William Peace University, has honed the art of cooking homemade meals on a college student budget during her years in school.

On Saturday night, she invited my suitemate and me to a Friends’ Dinner in her cottage.

This tradition started our first year of college as a way to meet new people in our dorm and enjoy the food we bring to the party.
Whipping out her culinary skills, Lor made one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes, Phở, a noodle soup dish that is served throughout Southeast Asia.

Some of what was in the soup were an assortment of spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, beef broth, noodles, meatballs, cilantro, chili, lime, and onions.

As we helped her make this wonderful dish, I realized that we made this dish under an hour and learned that all the ingredients only cost $30 dollars.

It might seem expensive, but as our chef explained one big pot can make several servings that lasts up to two days. So, to feed five people it would only cost $6 and there’s always seconds!

“Also, it’s not hard to make it…it’s actually quicker than what most people think,” says Lor.

The Phở was absolutely delicious with all of its savory flavors.

We were left wanting more after one bowl and were so thankful for Chef Mai’s fantastic cooking.

Making homemade meals is a great way to save money from eating out and it’s a change if you want to try different food besides what the cafeteria offers.

As we ended our amazing day with Chef Mai, she offers a bit her lasting wisdom, “The best part about cooking is that you know what’s in there, and you know what you like, and you know that it’s healthy and refreshing to your body.”

Luckily, she gave us the recipe and I have listed it below for anyone who’s interested in making this healthy, cheap and yummy dish.

How to Make Phở in College
1 packet of the Old Man Que Huong Pho Bac Spice Seasoning (1.5 oz)
1-2 tablespoons of sugar (depending on your taste)
1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce or salt (depending on your taste)
2-3 lbs of beef eye round
1 onion sliced into thin slivers
1 whole onion
1 bundle of chopped cilantro
1 bundle of chopped green onions
2-3 cans of chicken stock
1 cup of water
1 bundle of bean sprouts
1 bundle of basil leaves
2-3 limes
2 packets of Three Ladies’ Brand Rice Sticks/Noodles
1 bottle of Hoisin Sauce
1 bottle of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

Bring chicken stock, water, 1-2 tbs. of fish sauce (or salt if you don’t have fish sauce), 1-2 tbs. of sugar, an onion and spice seasoning packet in a pot on medium heat for 45 minutes.

Soak noodles in warm water in a bowl for 10-15 minutes.

Then, in a separate pot, fill water nearly all the way and add a dash of salt (to help the water boil faster). Add the noodles. Boil for about 10 minutes. Take it out and rinse with cold water (to stop the cooking process) and drain.

Slice the eye-round beef into thin pieces and place in a bowl. This will be used at the end to place into the noodles. The hot broth will cook the meat.

Add noodles in a bowl and pour the hot broth on top. Take a few slices of beef, green onions, onions, cilantro, and basil and place on top of the noodles. Squeeze a lime wedge and add Hoisin Sauce and Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce to your taste. Stir noodles with chopsticks and spoon to cook the beef in there.


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