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Vietnamese soup obsession

charlie_b | Dec 8, 200906:54 PM

in general, i've not yet been very impressed with any of my Asian food excursions in Austin (excepting Uchi, which i think is more New American or New Japanese than Asian)...

until now.

i've had the best Vietnamese soups i've had outside of VietNam at Lily's Sandwich in the Chinatown Center (Lamar x Kramer).

not that i traveled extensively in VietNam, or was there for a particiularly long time... but just that some of the soups i had there really made an impression. although i love a bowl of pho, there is much life beyond it.

esp. since i prefer shellfish and pork to beef.

back to Lily's Sandwich.

the Bahn Mi are OK. nothing special, but fine.

but look beyond the $3 sandwiches, and it's a whole, brave, new world.

They have at least 8 styles of noodle soups. so far i have only had 2 of them. 1 of them i have had 3 times this week, it is so very, very good.

so far, my favorite is the #26 Crab Vermicelli. i couldn't even tell you everything in it, but i'll try to replicate. it does not look like the photograph on the wall, which looks good too. a big bowl, filled with vermicelli rice noodles and a seafood broth. the broth is light and fresh tasting in a sense, but also deep and murky and funky in another sense (a good way) -- some fermented fish flavors. it is herbal, peppery, and barely salty. added were pig's blood (easily picked out, and ordered again without -- not unpleasant, but not a benefit to my palate either. at least it taste fresh and "clean"), tofu, shrimp, and loose, falling apart "meatballs" that might be ground pork and crab. fried shallots, cilantro, and a plate of shredded cabbage and lemon-basil.

insanely good.

the first time i ordered it, the guy tried to steer me to #31 -- said it was better. so we got a bowl of that too. it's broth was lighter, sweeter, with none of the funk. it had shrimp and maybe some roast pork slices and some fish-cake and both egg-noodles and bean-thread, i think some water-spinach or similar green...served with a plate of bean sprouts and basil. also very good.

lots of other noodle soups that i may try someday; some that i probably won't.

try anything and everything. the prices are reasonable. the guy (the owner?) is friendly. it is rarely crowded.


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