The Cheapest Asian Dish EVER – Made From Free Leftover Pho Garnishes

El Cheapo’s Recipe

My fridge magnet family featuring Mr. Hippo, El Cheapo (me), and Grace.

Like..really cheap. Besides salt, sugar, homegrown scallions, and garlic – this yummy thing was free.

(Quick set up)

Howdy on this Frugal Friday!

It seems like my father has officially declared retirement. He is continuing to live with us for now and he is receiving social security checks according to our mailman. With that and being rent free, he is living the high life (by his standards). Yesterday, he went out to some Chinese buffet all by himself and then I think he went to hang out at the senior center in Seattle’s Chinatown.

(These are all just my educated guesses since we don’t speak the same language. He might be in a street gang for all I know.)

With his new retirement activities, I’ve gone back to grocery shopping and foraging for myself this week.

It’s really nice even if cooking takes 2 hours of my time sometimes. It’s all worth it to have my little kitchen back now that he’s out and about more.

Pho Yeah!

Everybody loves pho! This famous Vietnamese noodle dish is my grown-up version of chicken noodle soup.

Another thing I I love is when my meals come with little side dishes, like in bento boxes and Korean dishes. Sometimes I end up liking the sides more than the main entree and the only disappointment is they didn’t give me enough.

That’s not a problem with Vietnamese pho places though. For just 2 people, my husband and I get a plate of garnishes each to ourselves at our pho places. The only non-issue is…pho is amazing on its own. I don’t think it needs a lot more of the stuff on the plate. I came for the beef broth flavor!

OK, so…what do you do with the leftover pho garnishes?!

While my dad was out, we had a pair of Airbnb guests leave 2 orders of eaten pho when they had to make an emergency return home for the babysitter. I told them I would dump out the takeouts and clean up for them while they get going. The mom handed me a small box of pho side garnishes (radishes, mint leaves, a tub of fish sauce, lime, chili sauce etc.) and told me they haven’t touched it yet and left.

I thought of dumping them out with the old broths but it’s such a shame for food (even garnishes) to go to waste so I popped them in the fridge instead.

It irked me a little when people in pho restaurants don’t use all of their sides even though it might not really matter in the big picture. But I want to go to their table and ask to have it every time. Most restaurants dump them out with the scraps and it’s a pity.

The next day, low on groceries on the old man’s new schedule, I rummage through our cabinet for something I could prepare. It’s weird. Going 10+ days without a grocery trip made me realize how many dried and canned things we stockpiled recently intending to use them but forgot.

I had everything in cabinets for a decent meal except fresh vegetables but………oh yeah that box of hand-me-down pho sides!

“Do I dare use other people’s leftover garnishes? What if they actually hated my Airbnb and spat in it?” I thought to myself 🤔🤔

But I don’t want to throw it away. It looks good. Don’t judge me! I’ve eaten out of the kitchen dumpster before. (But that’s a story for another time.)

Anyways, I did dare. And heck yeah, it was yummy!

RECIPE – Cheapo’s Pho Salad

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Ingredients (I Used)

I wasn’t exactly planning for it to turn out so good so here’s the roughy recipe. It doesn’t have to be specific at all, more of a tailored taste thing if you’re unfamiliar with Asian food.

Shredded daikon (or mung bean sprouts), fresh mint leaves, green onion, salt, sugar, garlic, chili oil, fresh lime juice, fish sauce or soy sauce (the 3 crabs fish sauce is my favorite.)

If it’s bean sprouts, cook the sprouts in hot water for a few minutes before continuing with the recipe.



1. 3 cups of shredded raw daikon or 3 cups of boiled sprouts, thoroughly drained and put it in a mixing bowl.

2. Cut 2 stalks of scallions into shreds or sticks and put it into the bowl.

3. Cut or toss in mint leaves whole, don’t worry they won’t overpower. It actually makes the salad for me :9

4. Add 1 tbsp of salt + 1½  tbsp of white sugar to the bowl and mix well.

5. Wait 10 minutes, the salt will suck moisture out of the vegetables and drain again.

6. While you’re waiting, mince 2 to 3 cloves of garlic. *Ginger is optional.

7. Drain again then throw the minced garlic into the mixing bowl along with fresh lime juice (1/4 of a small lime should be good.)

8. Add 2 tbsp of fish sauce or soy sauce – salt level and exact flavor depend on your fish sauce brand.

9. Add a doseage of chili oil and mix again.

10. Mix well until it starts to look all exotic, taste to test.

*Spicy peppers flakes are optional. *Sesame seeds are optional.

I packed it in my husband’s lunch (only for the 2 days he had jury duty this week) as a side to his stir-fry pork and rice. He said it was yummy and went well. I didn’t tell him it was the free leftovers of strangers though hahaha. Pop it in the fridge and it should last a week.

Salty, spicy, sweet, refreshing!


I’m not the pho police so you do whatever you want and change it up. I encourage anything as long as it reduces food waste.

Depending on your local pho restaurant, some establishments will give you bean sprouts and some will give you shaved radish/daikon as the main side garnish.

Different establishments give different types of ingredients, sometimes there are shreds of pepper and sometimes they give you a little tub of sauce too.

It’s common to get a slice or two of lemon or lime. Every pho place I’ve been to gives mint leaves. Those two ingredients are what I think makes this side dish “pop.”

It’s pretty healthy besides the oil!

I put in a little more sugar because I like my flavors salty, sour, and sweet.

If you ask for more garnish with the intention of taking some home, remember to leave a gracious tip.





I’m going to say it…

I’m going to say it and you can’t stop me…







pho shizzle.


OK, happy weekend now. BYE!

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