Pho soup for the soul from the Bay Area's Noodle Girl

ByJuan Carlos Guerrero KGO logo
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Pho soup for the soul from the Bay Area's Noodle Girl
Hang Truong shows off one of the signature dishes she prepares at Noodle Girl, an eatery she opened last August at U.C. Berkeley's Student Union.

BERKELEY (KGO) -- Among the Bay Area chefs nominated for a "James Beard Award" last week are two women who got their start at La Cocina in San Francisco.

Reem Assil of Reem's California is nominated for "Best Chef" and Nite Yun of Nym Bai is nominated for "Best New Restaurant". It just so happens that both are exhibiting their food this week in "A Week of Women in Food".

It's an event to showcase women in the food industry. Also taking part is a Han Truong, who started working at her mother's restaurant as an eight-year-old in the Vietnamese city of Da Lat.

"I was the one who picked up the noodles for my mom," said Truong at her eatery at U.C. Berkeley.

Truong left her mother's restaurant when she was 20 to go to school and then eventually moved to the United States. But all that time, she could not get her mother's soup out of her mind.

"I missed my mom's soup very, very much. I went to different restaurants, but I could never find the same taste as my mom's cooking," said Truong.

Hang dreamed of opening her own restaurant, but she did not get serious until her husband became ill with cancer.

"He couldn't eat anything. So I think of a super nutritious food that I could give him. And I just think about Pho. He can't chew, so I put vegetables into the soup. That is how the soup was born."

After her husband died, Truong joined La Cocina's food incubator program. She did pop-up events and opened a stall at a farmer's market in San Francisco's Noe Valley where she began selling her super nutritious Pho.

She packs her broth with extra spices like cinnamon, cloves, star anise and cardamom, along with the traditional ginger, shallots and garlic.

She simmers the broth for 18 hours and then tops it over flat noodles that are layered on top by several beef slices and other ingredients and especially Thai basil, which she said gives the soup a unique flavor.

"If you are not feeling well, it can release a lot of congestion and good for the stomach."

Truong sells her healthy take on Vietnamese comfort food at U-C Berkeley's Student Union.

Five La Cocina businesses opened there last August, including Hang's Noodle Girl. It's a name given to her by friends at her church.

"We cook every Sunday at church and when it is my turn to make something, I always cook noodle. They call me noodle girl," said Truong with a giggle.

"A Week of Women in Food" pairs up rising chefs like Hang Truong with more established restaurateurs.

More information can be found at La Cocina website.