The pandemic made me prefer getting take out and wearing a favorite pair of sweatpants around the house as opposed to wearing tight jeans and risking my life in the wild, eating with others.
I can’t imagine doing that now that I’ve been inside for over a year. When my friend, Paul, told me about a delicious pho place in Buena Park, I became more willing to go on a spontaneous adventure into the wild.
Sup Noodle Bar (pronounced “Soop”) felt unfamiliar, but I caved in after eating at the same pho places around my house and forced myself to be more social.
At first, the 31-minute drive from Garden Grove to Buena Park felt incredibly daunting, as my friend Orlando yelled the directions at me.
Of course, I made him wear a mask, threatening to kick him to the middle of the road if he didn't. I had forgotten to turn on the AC inside of the car, leaving it hot and stuffy, but we were still able to experience a tiny bit of normalcy.
Can the wind carry the virus? It didn’t matter; it was just two pals blasting ‘80s music.
Orlando and I managed to find Sup Noodle Bar, where our friends waiting for us shouted our names through their masks. It was suddenly normal to see people in masks yet still weird to eat out during a pandemic from my very sanitized perspective. Social distancing is enforced using Plexiglass and checking temperatures through the wrist. Their commitment to safety calmed down my lizard brain for once.
I know I’m pretty lucky to get vaccinated as a Hospice volunteer, but I’m still taking precautions.
They didn’t have indoor dining available, which was a relief, since outdoor dining is a bit safer than eating inside and being trapped in a contaminated box.
I immediately noticed the mask wasn’t fit for the waiter and I was so antsy to tell him to fix it, but it automatically fixed itself, to my surprise.
On the table was a QR code for the menu – a smart way to stay sanitary. The menu only contained two pages, and was a bit pricier than your average pho place.
I decided to get the pho beef belly. My friends Paul, David and Orlando got the combination pho that had a little bit of everything.
While we waited for our pho, we ordered the golden bao, a bun that has traditional fillings (beef, sausage, sauteed onions, hard-boiled egg and Chinese sausage) and it surprisingly wasn’t greasy.
I wanted more of the crispy buns, but my friends would have figured out my past life was that of a pig. Every crunch left anticipation for the next bite – a great start to the meal.
Then came our main dish: Pho!
Our bowls were a medium size, decorated with blue patterns found all over Southeast Asia.
It was just the right amount, unlike a lot of pho places that have bowls that are too big to finish.
As soon as I took a sip of that broth, it took me to a warm, comforting place – not too oily or too stale. It tasted just right.
The pork belly was cooked to perfection, not causing a war of tugging and pulling. They even put the right number of green onions, which is always more for someone who is an onion-holic (a.k.a. me).
I finished the entire bowl and was left wanting more. It was so savory yet so comforting.
It reminded me that amidst this raging pandemic, pho is a comfort food, and that our problems won’t last forever and food is forever.
Sitting around at the restaurant felt incredibly foreign to me at this point during the pandemic. My brain has yet to fully adjust to how restaurants function during a pandemic, based solely on what tent they use for outdoor dining.
And my paranoid brain croaked that the virus doesn’t stop just because you wanted some instant gratification.
Honestly at this point, I solely judge restaurants based on how they treated the pandemic and how often people eat out. Imagine eating out frequently during a pandemic. Wouldn’t one be slightly concerned that the virus might slip into you? Who knows!
But eating pho with a good group of friends over a year into this pandemic felt comforting. Pho is the one food that reminds me that everything will be alright.