New Holiday Traditions: Pho in Philly, Foreign Fruits, and Dimpling Dumplings

Even with my Christmas Pandora station playing, it hasn’t quite felt like the holidays for me just yet. Maybe it’s because finals loom, or because it’s 62 degrees today. Or probably, it’s because my family is 3 time zones away, and getting a Skype view of the Christmas tree isn’t quite the same as smelling the pine in person. All that Debbie Downer stuff being said, I just had a wonderful weekend in the city; this outing might just become my own holiday tradition.

My friend and recent alum, Juliana, just moved into South Philly, so she’s just a few dollars and half hour train and/or bus ride away. She had been meaning to try pho (rhymes with “huh”), the quintessential Vietnamese noodle soup, for some time, so having spent significant times in Viet Nam myself, we ventured to the Vietnamese district. Our lunch soon arrived, with giant bowls of noodles, beef, and delicious broth steaming. Pho is a Giebel family dinner outing staple, and I hadn’t had it since August, so I reveled in nostalgia and happiness as we slurped.

Pho Pho Pho

Next up, a quick walk over to the giant Asian market (fun fact: I wrote my college essay on ethnic markets and multiculturalism). Memories from Viet Nam continued to flood, as mangosteen, rambutans, and dragon fruit greeted Juliana and me. See if you can spot all three in the photo below:

Mangosteen is my absolute favorite fruit; if you ever stumble upon some, it’s worth the probably exorbitant price (it was $7.99 a pound when I was there)! Whole roasted ducks hung a few aisles down, and I contemplated purchasing one and reincarnating a Christmas tradition from my mom’s side of the family. As tempting as that was, Juliana and I opted to recreate my family’s other Christmas recipe: homemade pot stickers/in Chinese, jiaozi. I won’t divulge the full family recipe, but some combination of napa cabbage, garlic chives, pork, ginger, soy, sesame, and TLC summate to the filling; the wrapping entails some carefully cultivated folding techniques.

Note that Juliana made one in the shape of empanada – talk about fusion cuisine!

The finished product!


This is normally a huge family production: my aunt will roll out the dough, my uncle and grandma will make the filling, and my mom, cousins, and I are responsible for folding.  It’s a process I associate deeply with family and holiday.  I still feel that way, but I joked that I felt like I was completing a rite of passage, gaining ownership over a tradition that’s been passed through my family.  I feel so fortunate to have been able to share this tradition with members of this collegiate community; it really is cultural fusion — of my familial culture with my emerging independent one — embodied in a tidy little dumpling.

Happy Holidays to all; I hope everyone is reveling in and sharing their own familial traditions, whether they’re currently together or not!