Prepper Cuisine – Sardine Pho Vietnamese Noodles

There’s a lot of overpriced “Emergency Food” sold. Between the $8 / bag single serving freeze dried alpine camping meals, the $12 / meal MREs, and the $5 / pound “rice with flavor” in it, you can do a lot better.

Now IF you have a lot more money than time, and just want something NOW, sure, buy that $300 Emergency Food Supply arriving via UPS tomorrow. But if you do regular grocery shopping, there’s a way that just as easy, and a lot cheaper, while only taking a little more time. Basically, while doing your regular grocery shopping, you but some extra of foods that keep well, and store the extras.

I’ve been doing this for years and it works great. Along the way, I’ve come up with some “Prepper Cuisine” meals that I rather like. In some cases they are basically just a regular food that keeps well. A can of ravioli and side of canned peas. A small canned ham, some canned yams, and a can of green beans. Some brown sugar or molasses to flavor the yams, and maybe a bit of coconut oil (light salt added to get a more buttery effect) instead of butter on the yams. Only thing missing from my regular “ham and yams” meal is bread and butter. But other cases are perhaps less obvious.

For those cases, I’ve decided to post my recipes from time to time. This is one of them.

Vietnamese Pho

This is a noodle dish, often made with rice noodles, a soup base, some bits of vegetables, a spicy oil, and some kind of meat. The particular meat varies a lot. My favorite is a sea food version, but there’s also pork, beef, chicken and more. So if you are not fond of Sardines or other canned fish, you can just as easily substitute a bit of canned chicken or pork. SPAM ought to work well.

In this case, I bought a big package of Pho bowls at Costco. IIRC it had something like 6 bowls and was just a little over $12?. Something like that. Amazon has them at $4 / bowl: as does the Snapdragon site:

Snapdragon Pho Bowl

Snapdragon Pho Bowl

So I can only figure COSCO “got a deal” as I’m sure I didn’t pay $24 for the box… At most $16 as at that point I’m off to look at the Lamb Chops ;-) The local Marina Asian Foods Grocer also has several brands of similar stuff and often at very low prices. They also sell bundles of “Rice Noodles” for very cheap (about like other noodles in the ‘almost but not quite’ a buck a pound range) and you could just add your own seasoning and vegetable mix for a very low cost approach.

The Pho is Snapdragon Brand, product of Vietnam. Net Wt. is 2.1 oz. / bowl, mostly rice noodles. It also includes 3 other small packets. A soup base powder, some small dehydrated vegetable chips, and a flavored oil packet. The normal process is to heat 1 1/4 cups of water to the boil, while that’s happening, open the little flavor packets and dump the bits on the noodles, then pour over the hot water. Put the lid back on the bowl and wait 5 minutes.

This is fine and all, but at 220 Calories and no real protein source, rather limiting. So we “plus it up” with the addition of what’s missing. As I’m fond of the seafood pho, I use a fish in a can. You could also use dried fish if that is available in your area (or you dry your own). I also get a large package of sardines while I’m at COSTCO.

The sardines I use, mostly just because it is what is sold at COSTCO, is the Season Brand of Sardines in 100% Olive Oil, skinless & boneless. I do think these will work better in this dish than regular sardines, though. I grew up eating whole sardines, heads, fins and all, so I’m fine with them (and the local Mediterranean Grocer sells some Baltic Sprats that are wonderfully smoked with all parts included that I just love, but at $4 / can not “survival food”… besides, they never last long once in the cupboard… if they make it to the cupboard…) You could also use chunk tuna but it will tend to break up into the soup, or larger cans of salmon, mackerel, whatever. But since I’m mostly making this for “just me”, I use the small cans. And the sardines from COSTCO are about the best price I could find. Somewhere around $1.5 / can IIRC (but things will be cheaper anywhere out of California, I’m fairly sure ;-) Looks like $22 for 12 cans at Amazon:

Season Sardines

Season Sardines

These are listed as 200 Calories / can. I don’t know if that includes the olive oil, or if it is drained weight, but they list it as 12 grams of fat. In any case, in a real AwShit, you would use all the oil, too. I typically just drain off what runs out quickly, so get about 1/4 into the dish. I break the sardines into fork sized chunks, and add it to the Pho after that has soaked a while.

So all up, this is 420 calories of a nice light lunch that is also very healthful. Rice, fish, olive oil: a classic combination. It also has the benefit of a bit of “bite” from the Vietnamese seasoning, though folks who are used to it will want a bit of Tabasco or other hot sauce to jump it up.

It’s a very satisfying and tasty meal, made from components that will store for years. It’s a nice sized portion for a daily total Calories intake of about 1800, that assumes you will have a couple of 700+ Calorie meals as bookends to the day. If used as a dinner, you would want to add some sides to bulk it up. Lentil curry, for example, or a can of chili beans. As a light lunch it is just about right.

I typically keep at least one, and sometimes 2, boxes of both the Pho bowls and the 6 packs of sardines in the pantry. That’s about a dozen meals on standby. Since I go through more than one of these a month, inventory just naturally turns over about every 6 months. I don’t always use both, so sometimes I’ll have an excess of one or the other; and I could easily put 4 or 5 boxes of each on the shelf and still have inventory turning at least once / year. The Sardines list a “Best By” date about 4 years from when I bought them, and will still be nice long after that. The Pho noodles list a Best By date about a year after I bought them, but really, the stuff in it ought to last almost forever with only minor loss of flavor.

Now consider that this meal runs all of about $4 to $5. With alternative brands, you ought to be able to get this down to $2 / meal (one could always use ramen at 30 ¢ each as the soup / noodle base) Isn’t that a lot better than an $8 bag of freeze dried chicken rice stuff? BTW, if you really want that chicken rice stuff, check out the Knorr sides:

$2 / package from Amazon and cheaper at Walmart. Keeps nearly forever too. So why pay someone an extra $5 / package to put it in a plastic bucket?

But that will be for another day and another recipe ;-)

Well, I’m off to make some hot “green” tea to savor after my “survival” Vietnamese Pho w/ Sardines lunch. I’m not feeling at all hungry, but maybe could use a little caffeine lift for the “afternoon” fade ;-) That’s another thing that keeps darned near forever (especially if you put it in a glass jar to keep the air out). It also is a very nice traditional accompaniment to the Pho lunch. This particular tea is from China and is a light brownish more than green, but not like English black tea. I’m rather fond of it, but don’t know what to call this “not like Japanese green” semi-green tea…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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16 Responses to Prepper Cuisine – Sardine Pho Vietnamese Noodles

  1. E.M.Smith says:

    The tea is from People’s Republic Of China and was a gift. It is called “Jasmine Tea” from the Fujian Tea Import & Export Co., Ltd. (Importing tea to China?…)

    The bottom of the box says:

    China Jasmine Tea in bags are selected from superior quality of green tea which is scented with sweet-smelling jasmine flowers in bloom. It possesses not only the unique taste of green tea but also the agreeable fragrance of jasmine flowers. It is a healthful beverage.”

    So I guess that it is technically a “green tea” but likely best called “Jasmine tea”.

  2. Graeme No.3 says:

    If you are feeling flush with funds try Oolong tea. A semi-dried type between green and black.
    Oolong from Taiwan (although the old name Formosa clings) is best. However Taiwan hasn’t the cheap labor than China has, so don’t be shocked by the price. ($A320 per kilo here sold in small lots by someone at the end of a chain). Bao Zhong is the name of my favourite.
    I tried the grade from the Fujian Tea Co. and it wasn’t to my taste, too smokey/oily. Too reminescent of Lapsang Soochong for me, although lots of Englishers like the latter.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, Mum being an “Englisher” I was raised on black tea w/ milk and sugar. Only coming to green tea and Asian teas late in life. (i.e. college dating and Asian restaurants). So I’m not yet a connoisseur of it all. Lucky for me as that keeps the costs lower ;-0 I had a co-worker from Hong Kong who was fussy about his tea and he served me all sorts of it. Some we bought (in Chinatown SF) was quite pricey. It was great stuff, but I just couldn’t see $20 difference for a small package of a few ounces…

    Maybe with more practice…

    Unfortunately, all the transactions were done in Chinese as was all the writing, so just like the stuff he’d order “not on the menu” in various Chinese restaurants, I have no idea how ever get any of it again… and they don’t serve that stuff to White Guy unless he have Asian Friend or know how ask…

  4. Graeme No.3 says:

    Some years ago I bought tea (Milk Oolong) at a shop in Changi airport. The firm was TWG Tea Co. I checked their web site and they have a shop in North America. Clicking on the spot in the middle of Canada revealed that their only shop for North America is in Vancouver in Canada.
    You might like to browse their tea selection.

  5. Paul, Somerset says:

    I’ve always been puzzled why, until now, you’ve never prioritized canned sardines in your list of prep foods. They were, after all, about the first fish to have been canned, with Napoleon using them to feed his armies. They’re incredibly nutritious, particularly as you get to eat the calcium-filled bones. And, as you point out, they’re extraordinarily filling as well, with their fat content.

    But then I saw the price you’re paying in California! On this side of the Atlantic you can currently buy 125-gram cans of sardines in oil or tomato sauce (my favourite) from Lidl supermarkets for just 31 pence/can (41 cents). The cans are packed to the brim too, with three of even four fish, and have a best-before date of December 2022.

    I currently have 96 cans stacked in the kitchen cupboard, which I know makes me look a bit crazy if any visitors see them. But for an outlay of just £34.76 (currently $45.55) I’ve got a very comprehensive insurance policy sitting there. And, like all good prep foods, I eat them anyway, disaster or no disaster!

  6. H.R. says:

    wOw, Paul. 41¢/tin !?!?

    Here in the Midwest of the U.S., I can do better than E.M.’s California prices, but it’s still about $1 USD per can.

    I suggest starting up a smuggling operation ;o)

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    @Paul, Somerset:

    I think I’ve always just said “canned fish” and let folks decide what they like most… and mention the universal tuna…

    Do realize these are about THE fanciest sardines you can get. Regular oil and skins on is about a buck or a few cents each side of $1. There are some Canadian pack of sardines so big you get fillets :-) that can be down about 80 ¢ if you look around. Then Mexicsn sardines in big old 6 – 7 inch long cans and twice as thick in spicy sauces for more per can but less per ounce.

    Oh, and cheaper ouf of California.

    I’m just lazy and Costco sells these in a big pack.. so I get them. My favorite canned fish is probably smoked kippered herring, but many brands have started leaving too much water in. Usually abouf $1.40 a tin.

  8. Paul, Somerset says:

    Smuggling fish across the sea!

    The 31p/41c price has been a “special offer” for several weeks now. The usual price is 34p/45c/tin.

    Lidl (and Aldi) are a chain of privately owned German supermarkets common now throughout the UK. They offer a range of mostly “own-brand” high-quality products at ultra low prices. Without public shareholders they have been able to take a long term view of success, and have transformed the supermarket scene over here. They have forced all the long established chains to change policy and compete in terms of price rather than vague notions of “shopping experience” or “brand awareness”.

    Even Waitrose, notoriously the most expensive and snobbish of retailers, now offers sardines in tomato sauce at 50p/66c per tin.

    More generally, I think the incredibly cheap price of food at the moment, at least in this part of the world, is one of the strongest defences we have against politically motivated claims of environmental doom. They just look stupid and plain wrong.

    Having said that, you never know what may be around the corner for other reasons, so, as Chiefio commented in an earlier posting, best to stock while the stocking is good.

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    The general process here is to take a dimpke dish, like Pho or Ramen, that kerps well. One where you woukd normslly plus it up with something fresh, lije fish or shrimp, and swap in a preserved form instead. Canned, dried, salted, confit (like duck under duck fat).

    I get 12 packs of shrimp ramen cups for about $3.50 just because I like them. Well, some canned or dried shrimp could be added to jazz it up and add protein too. Similarly Chicken ramen and canned chicken. Same idea as above, but not as fancy :-‘) or to really make it fancy, add some tuna, canned shrimp, and canned salmon to bowls for a group (where it justifies opening several cans at once) or mix it up with canned mushroom bits for a vegetarian angle.

    There’s a lot of ramen, Pho, and similar noodle packages to choose from, including spicy Thai at my local Asian grocer. Then several kinds of tinned meats & fish & mushrooms. The local Indian grocer even has tinned mutton! I figure about 2 dozen reasonable combinations, so plenty of choice, variety and price points.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    Aldi! They had those in Florida… have not seen one here. Maybe I ought to look :-)

    “Grocery Outlet Bargain Market” is our cheap outlet. Mostly overstocked or clearance stuff but some regular carry. I usually start there and buy what I can, then hit COSTCO and on down the list. Lately been getting nice, not great, caviar at $2.50 a small jar. Chicken 79 ¢ / lb. Nice wines from around the world for $3 to $9 a bottle (750 ml). I may shop like a cheap SOB, but I like my coq au vin and caviar with pinot grigio :-)

  11. Paul, Somerset says:

    Just to emphasize my point on the falling cost of food: UK households now spend half what they did 60 years ago on food, as a percentage of weekly income.

    Here’s hoping for another sixty years of climate catastrophe!

  12. Larry Ledwick says:

    I’ve never had sardines in my life but have been around people who eat them and with zero exposure find them very unappitizing (sure I would eat them if starving but have no interest at all in buying any). There are only two fish products I routinely eat, tuna fish and butter fly shrimp (frozen).
    The tuna is a significant portion of my protein storage in the pantry.

    Here in the Rocky Mountain west a large cans (5 oz) of tuna at Cosco are 8 for $12.99 or $1.62 per can. For the dishes I usually fix (single serving for one person) with tuna I much prefer the smaller cans (3 oz) which are getting hard to find, but are currently here going for 3 for $3.19. The tuna pouches are replacing the small cans and are .2.6 oz They go for 6 for $11.88 or $1.98 each pouch so actually almost 2x more expensive than the small cans, and probably a shorter shelf life.

    Most of my canned meat is in spam, canned ham, canned chicken and some roast beef in a can (keystone)

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    I find commercial canned chicken dry and mealy. I’ll eat it, but it wants mayo…

    So .I’ve taken to canning my own. MUCH better. Just stuff it in the jar, pour on some chicken bullion, and process. Comes out of the jar tender, moist, flavorful. I’ve canned legs on the bone, thighs on the bone, and breast meat chunked skin included. It’s great. And way cheaper than the commercial stuff. 24 oz. Jars work well for legs, 6 to 8 to the jar. (I use Mason Jars that originally had pasta sauce from the store…) Were I doing it for one, I’d cut the meat off the bone and raw pack 8 oz.or pint jars.

    I’ve not tried canning fish (yet…) but lots of folks do. Small jars and 90 minutes covers even the most difficult stuff, generally.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh, and yeah, lots of SPAM and the small canned hams. I’ve tried canning ham and pork, with mixed results… very edible, but not esthetically like the commercial stuff. More like canned ham jerky :-) MUCH better and easier to just buy it… I’ve not tried canning beef, but lots of folks do and claim success.

  15. Larry Ledwick says:

    The Keystone canned roast beef is surprisingly good. I supposedly is literally cooked in the can. When you open the top of the can it has the obvious fat from the beef congealed at the top, does not look all that appitizing but drop it in a sauce pan with just a slurp of extra water, and put on the heat and then shred it with two forks and you have a perfect very quick meat for tacos or similar dishes. Or you can once it is warmed up and you have broken it apart a bit, toss in some potatoes carrots and onions let it simmer for a bit and you have small helping of fresh roast beef with vegetable. The small cans are 14.5 oz so you get about 4 (3.5 ounce) servings per can of meat.

    It has a few bits of gristle in it from time to time so I generally break the meat up in the sauce pan and give it quick once over for pieces that need a bit of trimming, but other than that it is perfect for the kind of small dishes I like to cook which I can eat up before I get tired of it or it spoils in the fridge.

    If preparing taco filling I drain the meat, pull it apart with two forks and divide into single servings and toss them in a snack size zip lock bag and freeze them. When I get home from work it just takes a few seconds to heat up the meat filling in the microwave, toss a flour tortilla in cast iron fry pan to warm it and serve up the meat and what ever other fillings you might want like tomatoes, onions shredded lettuce and cheese shreds a shake of hot sauce and you are in business. Takes less time than you would sit in the drive up window line at the local Taco Bell on a busy night.

  16. Steve C says:

    Jasmine tea is a curious case. The fragrance does, indeed, come from the tea leaves being dried along with jasmine petals. Less known is that, when the tea is dry, these petals are removed and thrown away – the little flecks you see that say “Jasmine” have practically nothing to do with the jasmine tea experience beyond the visual, and are stirred into the already-scented tea just before packaging.

    My favourite green tea – well, okay, it’s practically grey – is gunpowder tea. It tastes so dry you almost end up thirstier after you drink it than you were before. Recommended, at least to try.

    Also, a nice alternative to tea, naturally caffeine-free, is Redbush, or Rooibos. It makes a fine, strong-looking infusion with a nice flavour not entirely unlike tea, and can take sugar or milk if that’s how you prefer your tea. It grows mainly in SW Africa, and I have been mildly surprised recently to see it appearing in Aldi and Lidl, the discount supermarkets – it must be catching on and turning mass market.

    Final Tea Hint. Find a supplier of Indian foods, and treat yourself to a little pack of tea masala. This is a delicate blend of spices which adds an edge to any tea (or, indeed, coffee or redbush) that makes it perfect on a sunny afternoon. Do read the instructions though – you only need a fraction of a teaspoonful per cup if you want something drinkable!

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