Bun cha oc
(snail noodle soup, available Thursdays at Ha VL)
One of Peter Vuong's unique innovations is his take on bun cha oc, Ha VL's snail noodle soup. Traditionally, this soup contains whole snails, but Peter developed a lemongrass-scented snail meatball "to make the snails more flavorful." Floating in a broth made from pork bones, the hearty soup is bolstered by fried tofu and slices of pork loin, while tomato provides a fresh and acidic contrast.
Bun bo Hue
(available Saturdays at Ha VL and Wednesdays at Rose VL)
The first soup offered at Ha VL was bun bo Hue, a spicy, lemongrass-scented beef noodle soup named after the central Vietnamese city where it was invented. Round, vermicelli noodles are supple and slurpable, while three cuts of meat provide textural dynamics: pork meatloaf has a smooth and even texture, thinly sliced beef round steak is somewhat tougher, and pork loin has a luxurious texture. Ha VL's bun bo Hue—a family recipe, according to patriarch William Vuong—omits the red-brown cubes of congealed pig's blood that are used in many renditions of the soup. Topping the accompanying plate of salad and herbs are tiny shavings of banana flower that have a sweet, clean taste.
(Vietnamese turmeric noodle soup, available Sundays at Ha VL and Saturdays at Rose VL)
This may be the Vuongs' most complex soup, made with condensed pork broth and turmeric-dyed noodles. When asked about it, William Vuong—as he sometimes does—leaned in to whisper in grave secrecy, a trait that's fun to imagine is a holdover from his time colluding with the CIA: "The secret is a concentrated broth. Twelve ingredients cooked over low fire for three hours. No one else can make it right." The porcine party continues with pork ribs, pork meatloaf, ground pork and pork loin. There's also shrimp, shrimp cake, and dried, ground shrimp for seasoning, with a handful of ground peanuts and a sesame rice cracker giving a final crunch.