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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup and an Update on Saigon Noodle

Weekly Staff Writer Walter Ryce loves him some good grub, but he loves it in exotic forms that most wannabe foodies can't cope with, and takes it down in quantities that belie his slight frame.

And, having grown up on the killer kimchi and bimbimbap fare his Korean-native mother makes—and continues to conjure deliciously in a city called Seaside—he enjoys the most textured expertise on Pan-Asian cuisine of anyone I know. (There are reasons we call him "Doc" around the office.)

When he asked what pho spot I could use a report on, that was easy: Saigon Noodle (394-8494), an immediately popular outpost on lower Broadway at its opening less than a year ago, when he was one of the first to attend, but one that has lost a little steam with the departure of its founding leader and warm spirit Grandma Sunshine to make way for new owners. Here's what he came back with:

This is spicy beef noodle soup. Darker broth than chicken pho, more oily.

Thicker, slippery noodles, demanding some dextrous chopstick control. More for slurping into the mouth than shoveling in like you can do with vermicelli noodle chicken pho at Pho King (899-1424), but it tends to flick juices so head low and eyes closed.

The meat comes in good, tender, fatty strips, with slivers of gristle floating about (also good), and half-meatballs. Jo at Saigon Kitchen told me to not add Sriracha sauce because it changes the taste, but this soup is not spicy—until you hit a jalapeño pepper, which game me the sweaty scalp reaction.

It comes with soybean sprouts, two slices of jalapeño, lime and instead of fresh basil leaves, mint leaves and even one square of tofu floating around like a life raft.

New tables and chairs class up the place some, though it was empty except for one woman waiting for take-out. Jo said it's been slow.

The soup's worth a trip: It's a hearty, rich soup for a notch cheaper than a comparable size of Pho King. Feels good and messy eating, then peaceful afterwards.