Wednesday, November 17, 2010

VH Noodle House

VH Noodle House
3288 Pierce St
Richmond, CA 94804
(510) 527-3788
Categories: Vietnamese, Chinese

There's a certain "je ne sais quoi" factor when it comes to good Asian noodle soups. No matter if I eat Vietnamese pho or Hong Kong style wonton noodle soups or a steamy bowl of shiyo based cha su ramen or Taiwanese beef noodle soup or Singaporean curry laksa, the mystery behind the combination of what goes into a good noodle soup to make it GOOD is still elusive (thanks, Tien!).

It's never simply one element. Perhaps it's the marriage of broth, fresh noodles and spices that determine the penultimate in the bowl. Or, it may be as simple as just the right sprinkling of spices and the ever present MSG that is dominant in Asian cuisine. OR, it may be the time taken to extract the flavor from the beef or pork or chicken bones for the broth, the lovely savory broth that makes me cry happy tears.

My quest for the perfect bowl brought me to VH last weekend, when the bf and I found ourselves hungry, with little time to spare, and a freshly killed whole red snapper in rigor mortis, warming in the trunk of our car awaiting its fate in the deep fryer for a proper supper later in the evening.

I looked into the neighboring pho restaurant with only a few diners scattered through their large dining room and made a bee line for VH, which was still crowded at 3pm. Now, as a child following around my mother on weekends in Oakland's Chinatown, I've eaten many many bowls of the teo chew style rice noodle soups at their original location. In fact, this is the ONLY place my mother will order stir-fried pork kidneys with ginger and scallions. Chaozhou people have settled in various parts of China and Southeast Asia and their cuisine has influenced various cultures throughout. I grew up with the flavors from my maternal Chaozhou side of the family, and it reminds me of home.

VH cooks the kidneys to perfection, with a slight snap, never overcooking (which can make it lifeless and rubbery) and never tasting like an iron supplement just melted in your mouth before you could get some water to flush it down. Bleurgh. We still haven't figured out how they get the kidneys so tasty, but it may be the amount of heat and cooking time that you can only replicate on a chef's grade stove.

The restaurant in Richmond provides better ambiance and the staff are friendlier than the original establishment in Oakland's Chinatown. Diners are also given the option of what type of noodles to order for their soup, which is a nice step up.

The bf ordered a pork meatball rice noodle soup with round rice noodles. I ordered the traditional teo chew noodle soup with small flat rice noodles. Both were heaven in a bowl. The broth was incredibly flavorful and clear, and I scooped heaping spoonfuls of my favorite ingredients like ground pork, lean pork, chicken, pork meatballs and the famed kidneys into my soup spoon.

We ate in silence, with only the slurping of noodles and a few "yums" and "wows" interspersed in our psychic conversation of agreement that this noodle house is now in the top 10 of our favorite go-to places for a cheap meal in a bowl.

Our server forgot to bring a thai iced tea until the end of the meal, but by then, we could forgive a lot more than a dinky beverage.