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Spicy beef noodle soup, Viet Hoa

Posted May 4, 2013 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

There are some places you end up eating the same dish over and over again. Might not even be the stand out feed on the menu. Might be that you alone have trouble getting past this one particular item. Used to be a place up on the north coast did an amazing flash fried spanner crab omelet. They could have just called themselves 'That Omelet Place'. A lot of folks never get beyond the ragout at Enoteca, or the ribs at Crosstown. When I still lived in Darlinghurst, my then girlfriend used to ring Kim Le, a Vietnamese restaurant, every night when she got home from work.

"Hi Kim, it's Heather. Can you send us dinner now?"

And a guy would arrive at the front door fifteen to twenty minutes later with the same order, every night. (Ginger chicken, chili fish, steamed rice, and beef with mushrooms, for the dog).

There's a place in West End, called Viet Hoa, where I never seem to get past the spicy beef noodle soup. It's not that the rest of the menu sucks. Viet Hoa is the goods, and whenever you walk in at least half the customers there are ethnic Vietnamese, which is always a good sign. I first went with young Sam Watson, the poet, shortly after he'd won the David Unaipon Award, and I've always been grateful to Sammy for dragging me into a joint I wouldn't otherwise have bothered with.

It's an unremarkable sight from the footpath. A small corner store, some pot plants to protect a clutch of outside tables. Shiny white tiled floor, in that SE Asian style. Waving cat thingy on the counter. A mix of familair Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, and a bunch of mystery picks. Just one of dozens of nosheries in that part of town.

Ah, but the spicy beef noodle soup. 'Tis a wonder. Worth the drive across the southside for me. It's the master stock that powers this dish, a deep, earthy blend that's been closely guarded by the owner's family for many years. Possibly generations. As you can see from the happy snap there is a generous balance of colour and texture, with lashings of greens as an option for those who swing that way. The beef is soft and falls apart on the tongue, a few spiced chicken dumplings surprise when they pop out from under a basil leaf. The noodles are springy and the chili just the right side of ringing the fire alarm.

But it's the stock which carries this dish. If you're in the mood for hot-n-spicy soup and you're over West End way, you know what you have to do.

39 Responses to ‘Spicy beef noodle soup, Viet Hoa’

damian would have you know...

Posted May 4, 2013

Ben's on Annerly Rd is still our favorite of favorites, after maybe 15 years. We stretch to a noodle soup regular order or a mains regular order, depending on the time of year, mood, and how the fuck we ended up over that side of town in the first place -- after all since moving to the horth side 6 years ago we've had Ben's just a couple of times, the most recent only since Ildi started working at the Mater.

Anyhow, for the regular mains, Ildi gets the chicken with ginger and shallots, and I get the pork fat ho. Or actually ho phan, but my version is more descriptive and accurate. We used to always do the noodle soups though. This is a place where if you get noodle soup to take away, they lovingly package the solid ingredients and the broths separately, and also give you a bag full of been shots and lemon wedges. You then combine the ingredients in your own noodle soup bowls at home, a compulsory item for this process. I would typically get the combination long and short noodle (ie, egg noodles and wontons) soup with cha siu, Ildi would get the chicken shredded-bean-noodle soup. This is still even now stunningly affordable, so much so that even as a student it wouldn't have had to be that rare a treat.

w from brisbane mutters...

Posted May 4, 2013

Come on, Damian. You really go to Ben's for the karaoke.

damian ducks in to say...

Posted May 4, 2013

Yeah well you know w, one man's pho is another man's ramen

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 4, 2013

Oh, that Ben's. Man, I disgraced myself at a karaoke night there once. All I remember is the horrified faces of the diners. Not the food.

damian asserts...

Posted May 4, 2013

Dude the food there is awesome. I recommend the pork phat ho.

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 4, 2013

Serena Wiliams went to Ben's in January this year after she won the local tennis tourney. She sang Elton John's ''Your song" with some drunk (no offence intended).

And as the story goes...
At one stage they played Gold Digger by Kanye West and when he sings the lyric 'she gonna have an ass like Serena' the whole room erupted in cheers and wolf whistles.

Another magic Ben's karaoke moment.

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Natscanner mutters...

Posted May 4, 2013

This is my favourite soup. I struggle to order anything else in my favourite Vietnamese joints. Love.

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John Lees is gonna tell you...

Posted May 4, 2013

Any serious appreciation of Vietnamese food requires travelling to Inala. Being the dumping ground *cough* melting pot of migrants that it is means awesome food for not much money. Eat pho or a vermicelli salad and buy asian groceries, all in one convenient location.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

True. There was a legendary duck restaurant out there I once heard tell of. Nothing but duck.

Bangar puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

Maybe Simon's Peking Duck Restaurant next time your down, it is in Box Hill though (short walk from the station, waddle back)

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damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 4, 2013

Reminds me that Sun Fay in Taringa (of all places) had a great cold cut chicken. I recall at least a couple of times we were eating in there and Ildi ordered that, the manager can running out with "most westerners don't like that, are you sure you know what it is" and concerns of a similar nature. So after we've given reassurances we're quite aware of that and please, we'd be most happy to trust their chef's judgement but maybe give us an extra serve of minced garlic to go with it if it's that much of a worry, etc, etc. Damn fine dish too, especially with a bit of good quality soy and a lot of minced garlic.

Asia House in the Valley, of course, have cold cut duck. Which is why I thought of it... and which is very very good.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

I used to live just up the hill around the corner from Sun Fay. The Tassie Babes house. Never ate there. Why would I when there was a disgracefully cheap chinese take away even closer to home. Up part Dos Amigos. (Another venue where I can no longer tread. This time due to dope fueled hilarity).

Forget the name of the Chinese takeaway. It may have been eponymous. But I do remember its most famous regulars. Tony Fitzgerald and his bodyguards.

damian mumbles...

Posted May 4, 2013

Yeah I had figured that about that house. Over the top of Swan Road, and actually the intersection where there's absolutely no way to see who is coming when you want to turn right, so if that's what you are doing you have to be sure you have reached whatever understanding you need to with your creator, saviour or dog.

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damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 4, 2013

Meskin place in Targina haz always bin teh awesome and stuffs

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Abe Frellman mumbles...

Posted May 4, 2013

Pho Phu Quoc aka 'Phuc Right Off' in Dickson does awesome special beef pho. Worth a try when next in our nation's craptapital.

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damian mumbles...

Posted May 4, 2013

I always loved Phuc Quiu in Dickson, just around the corner from the Asian Noodle House

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Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

Don't mind Huong's in West End but must try Viet Hoa soon. Going through Mitcham on the train, we can see a place called Hiep Phat. I want to eat there.

damian ducks in to say...

Posted May 4, 2013

Is the Kim Tanh still going on Hargrave Rd? One of the most important restaurants in my nascent understanding in the 80s... and also the location of one of Ildi and my first dates...

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 4, 2013

Don't think so.

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 4, 2013

No. Kim Thanh is gone (sniff, sniff). Now Linh's restaurant.
Not the same.

damian mutters...

Posted May 4, 2013

This is (*cracks knuckles*) disappointing.

Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted May 4, 2013

Kim Thanh was great. Many crowded nights.

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal that GreyBeard was stooging around with Uncle Ho the evening before the famous French loss of Dien Bien Phu. The story goes that a Gravely mis-informed Garçon tried to palm off some two day old bread as today's early bake on chau GreyBeard. In a fit of pique he then showed Uncle Ho the dream of artillery all observation posts. A little spot that overlooked the teachers college's showers.

damian mutters...

Posted May 4, 2013

Yeah if there wasn't a hald decent pho, I'm not interested.

Darth Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 4, 2013

All wrong as per usual. Ho had developed a fantastic French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine while in Paris. Information may have been exchanged between the Ca Hap and the Sup Do Bien but after the third bottle of Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle I can't really be sure.

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damian ducks in to say...

Posted May 4, 2013

Medium thread hijack:

"So every time the Nazis did publicly organize since then, I was there to oppose them, not with the force of my intellect but with the strength of my fists."

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2009/winter/a-jew-in-prison#.UYS8_7Vmh8F

NBlob puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

Nice one Mr D.

damian mumbles...

Posted May 4, 2013

"There is no question in my mind that the Nazis ultimately backed down at the last minute not because they were put off by the Skokie City Council when it hastily enacted an ordinance preventing the march, nor because the Anti-Defamation League made the Nazis "irrelevant" by advising people to ignore them, nor because the ACLU helped the Nazis "make their point" that free speech is allowed and this made the march moot. Rather, it was because they were afraid of the Jewish and other anti-fascist demonstrators who organized against them and made it clear that they were going to offer armed resistance."

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Bunyip mumbles...

Posted May 4, 2013

Kim Le... was that on Bourke Street, up near Taylors Square?

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 4, 2013

No, Darlinghurst Road, down from Coluzzis

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damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 4, 2013

My mum took me to a place called Afri-lanka on Oxford St just down from Taylor Square some time in the early 80s. She loved it, however given that even the deserts had at least a handful of chillies, it was a bit interesting for 12 year old me

I would not expect it's still there...

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 4, 2013

I think a pr0n shoppe replaced it.

damian reckons...

Posted May 4, 2013

I've no doubt.

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Abe Frellman asserts...

Posted May 4, 2013
That's ok then.

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yankeedog reckons...

Posted May 4, 2013

Do they deliver to Illinois? Best we can do is Pasteur, or Le Mekong. Le Mekong is pretty darned good-recommended for anyone in the Quad Cities (which actually consists of five cities) up here in the anterior, er, interior, of Septicland (TM).

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Daniel Young would have you know...

Posted May 4, 2013

Ahh Bún bò Hu?!

You've made me miss Brisbane and West End.

Yes, we have Cabramatta down here, but who can be bothered? Waaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Phil is gonna tell you...

Posted May 5, 2013

My Sydney picks were always Pho Pasteur on George st haymarket and Pho An in Bankstown. Massive temple of a joint with 100+ seats and 8 things on the menu. Brilliant.

Daniel Young is gonna tell you...

Posted May 5, 2013

Thanks Phil :) Been to Pasteur, but will have to head to Bankstown sometime.

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