Stop me if this sounds familiar. You indulge (a celebratory 32oz ribeye, or one extra scoop of ice cream before bed), you feel bloated and horrible, and then you vow to start eating cleaner, do a cleanse, or go vegan. I’m guilty of this, and I’m willing to bet most of us are. Which is why I feel like an idiot when Charlie Ngo poses the question: “Why wait until you feel bad to change your diet?”
Charlie and his wife, Lauren Tran, are the team behind TruBroth, a Vietnamese coffeehouse and restaurant. On its face, TruBroth could be any other Vietnamese restaurant. The menu has spring rolls, pho, bubble tea, and the other staples we’ve come to expect. But the core mission of TruBroth isn’t to fill stomachs. It’s to change our relationship with food from one of consumption and indulgence, to one that actively promotes healing.
Ngo speaks with both the authority of ancestral wisdom (his parents are first-generation Vietnamese immigrants, and he and Tran utilize traditional Vietnamese recipes), and learned experience from 20 years in healthcare, first as an Army medic, then as a nurse.
“I saw there was a big need for nutrition from being in hospitals. There are really no restaurants that cater to individuals that need to heal themselves after cancer treatments, surgeries, or other procedures,” says Ngo.
His reasoning for the focus on nutrition is simple: “When you have any inflammation or chronic illness, it goes back to digestion. If you’re not digesting your food properly, it doesn’t matter what you eat, or how much exercise you do. The nutrients aren’t getting there.”
Enter bone broth. “Our bone broth has four-to-five different herbs, and our bones are from locally raised grass-fed or pasture-raised animals,” Ngo says. Collagen from the bones promotes healthier gut lining, while also benefiting skin, hair, and joints. Meanwhile, anti-inflammatory properties of herbs like turmeric, ginger, and anise alleviate the strain on immune systems. “Everything is broken down to the micronutrient level. When you drink bone broth, it’s readily absorbed so your digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard.”
While bone broth is bursting with enough flavor to be drunk on its own, it also serves as the foundation for TruBroth’s soup-based menu. Other additions serve to amplify bone broth’s health benefits and add nutritional balance. “Everything is based on a formula,” Ngo says. “When we put different ingredients together, they complement each other.” He points to the vegetable soup: different mushroom varieties lend their anti-inflammatory properties, while organic bean curd and tofu provide protein so that the body can rebuild itself.
Or the com me soup, a Vietnamese take on hot-and-sour soup. Fermented rice grains in the broth base provide a bright tang as well as probiotics; rice noodles add chewy, gluten-free carbs for an easy energy source; and seasonal greens round out the soup with a bevy of vitamins. “You don’t just throw stuff together,” says Ngo. “You’ve got to have the right combination.”
While the healthful aspects of TruBroth are Ngo and Tran’s focus, this simple fact shouldn’t go ignored. Their food is delicious. Their recipes aren’t the result of contemporary diet trends. Their food is a product that has sustained a culture for centuries. It’s good, and good for you, making it the nutritionally sound version of having your cake and eating it, too.
Ngo neatly summarizes: “Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said that food is medicine. And we eat three meals a day, so why not use that as an opportunity to heal yourself?
TruBroth, 36A S Main St, Travelers Rest. (864) 610-0513, trubrothcoffee.com