After eating my mom's Banh Canh Cua (Vietnamese Thick Noodle Soup with Crab), Darlene of Blazing Hot Wok and I went shopping at the Red, White, & Blue Thrift Store in Gladstone. Your friend comes all the way to see you and you take her thrift store shopping my mom asked? Yes, indeed! She found a nice winter coat and a pair of like-new Dansko shoes for $19.95. I got a pair of beige d'Orsay-style Manolo Blahnik pumps for $7.95! Sure they're a size-and-a-half too big, but they're Manolo Blahniks! For $7.95!
Afterward, I suggested checking out Ha & VL, a Vietnamese restaurant I had been meaning to try since my last trip home. I read a brief mention in The Oregonian about how the owner makes one type of soup each day and once it's gone, she closes up shop. Hmm. Must be pretty darn good for her to not open during dinner.
Ha is her name. The VL are her husband's initials. I remember the strip mall that Ha & VL is located in used to be a small motel. It's nice to see shops and restaurants there instead.
The decor is what I would call FOB "chic" -- vinyl tablecloths and fake flowers.
We were there on a Tuesday, which meant Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup) day. Soups are $7.50.
The broth was yummy. We slurped almost every last drop. As good as what I can get in SoCal. Hey! That's saying a lot for Portland!
The plate of herbs isn't a lot, just the right amount for a bowl. No sliced banana blossoms like what I'd get in SoCal, but she gave me a small pot of Mam Ruoc (Vietnamese Fermented Shrimp Paste) and her special toasted chili pepper flakes.
August 8, 2010 update:
When I was back in Portland in September 2009, I revisited Ha & VL with Darlene again.
We were there on a Wednesday, which meant Bun Moc Hanoi (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Pork Pepper Balls).
Mmm. The broth was so yummy. Seriously, like a homecooked bowl of noodles. I could tell there was a lot of care in the making of the broth. And she tops it off with fried shallots like my momma.
Co Ha (Auntie Ha in Vietnamese) is from the North so she has several Northern-style soups that aren't too common in Portland. The other being Bun Thang (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Chicken, Egg, and Pork), available on Sundays.
Again, the herb plate is pretty standard and minimal.
I also ordered a Ca Phe Sua Da (Vietnamese Ice Milk Coffee) that was rich and packed with caffeine.
Darlene and I split a banh mi dac biet (Vietnamese special sandwich). The sandwich was good, nothing spectacular. It's her soup that is the real specialty here.
Co Ha nicely wrote out the Vietnamese names for me since the menu lists the English translations. Ready?
Monday: Bun Rieu Cua Tom Oc (Vietnamese Crab and Shrimp Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Snails) (No snails in her version).
Tuesday: Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup)
Wednesday: Bun Moc Hanoi (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Pork Pepper Balls) (See picture above.)
Thursday: Banh Canh Cua (Vietnamese Thick Noodle Soup with Crab) (Not as good as my momma's, but then no one's is.)
Friday: Hu Tieu Nam Vang (Vietnamese Phnom Penh-Style Clear Noodle Soup) (Similar to my Hu Tieu Saigon (Vietnamese Clear Noodle Soup with Barbecued Pork and Shrimp) but with liver, fish balls, and squid.)
Saturday: Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup) and Bun Moc Hanoi (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Pork Pepper Balls)
Sunday: Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup) and Bun Thang (Vietnamese Rice Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Chicken, Egg, and Pork)
I asked Co Ha why she only opens for breakfast and lunch. Co Ha says she's too old to work all day. Plus, the quality of her soups would go down if she had to make so much. So, go early if you can because once her soup is gone, she closes up.
Oh, and Portland Yelpers, the only pho she serves is on Sunday. The rest of her soups are NOT pho. There are a lot of Vietnamese soups, way more than pho. Stop saying she serves lots of kinds of pho. Sheesh. I'm kinda embarrassed for my hometown.
Ha & VL has received a lot of love from Portland bloggers including,
Guilty Carnivore who can't decide between her Banh Canh Cua, Bun Moc Hanoi, Bun Thang, and Hu Tieu Nam Vang.
Eat. Drink. Think. also mentions the same article I saw in The Oregonian.
All Oregon posts can be found with the tag Series: Oregon, but I suggest reading this particular trip in this order:
PDX and My Parents' Chihuahuas
Salvador Molly's - Portland - Oregon
Why My Mom's Banh Canh Cua (Vietnamese Thick Noodle Soup with Crab) Is Better Than Your Momma's
Ha & VL - Portland - Oregon
Karma Cafe - Portland - Oregon
Oc Xao Nam He (Vietnamese Clams Sauteed with Mushrooms and Chives)
Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden - Grant Park - Portland - Oregon
Pok Pok - Portland - Oregon
Portland Farmers Market at PSU - Portland - Oregon
Downtown Portland - Oregon Redux
Mill Ends Park (Smallest Park in the World) - Portland - Oregon
Tabor - Portland - Oregon
Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen - Portland - Oregon
Mom's Chao Vit (Vietnamese Rice Porridge with Duck)
Oriental Food Value Supermarket - Portland - Oregon
Mom's Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup)
Ha & VL
Wing Ming Market Center
2738 SE 82nd Ave., Ste. 103
Portland, OR 97266
Monday to Friday 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Times are approximate. If she sells out of soup, she closes up early.
1 year ago today, one of my most popular recipes, Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup).
2 years ago today, The Edison - Los Angeles (Downtown).