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)...
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.
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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