Now that it is beginning to feel a lot like winter in Oakland, I yearn for soup to warm my soul and body. Not any old soup, of course, but Asian noodle soup! I find a bowl of noodle soup, particularly Chinese, Vietnamese, or Japanese to be comforting and completely satisfying.
Here are our go-to places in Oakland:
1. Vien Huong
Vien Huong, a popular hole in the wall in Oakland’s Chinatown, makes one of my favorite noodle soups which originates in Teochew. Chaozhou (or Teochew) is a city in the Guangdong Providence in China.
With lines out the door, most people happily and hungrily wait for a bowl of Teochew Ho Fun. This soup has broth that tastes like it's been cooking for days, tender rice noodles and all sorts of protein like beef balls, fish balls, pork, chicken, shrimp, and kidney.
Vien Huong also makes its own homemade chili oil to which I add sweet hoisan sauce to make the flavors really pop.
Tay Ho, Photo by Lisa Lau
2. Tay Ho
Also in Chinatown is Tay Ho, the only Vietnamese restaurant in Oakland that I am aware of that uses local, natural, and farm fresh ingredients.
It was here about three years ago that I was first introduced to Bun Bo Hue, a spicy beef noodle soup. This soup’s main ingredients are sliced beef, tendons, and fishcake. Bun Bo Hue is complemented with a plate full of thinly sliced cabbage, bean sprouts, mint, jalapeños, and lime.
I just love the Vietnamese style of adding fresh raw vegetables into a bowl of hot soup.
Bun Mam Soc Trang, Photo by Lisa Lau
3. Bun Mam Soc Trang
Another hidden gem, Bun Mam Soc Trang, is located on E. 18th street in East Oakland. Just about anything you order here is delicious, but my top two favorite noodle soups here are Bun Rieu and Bun Bo Hue. My top recommendation, though, is the Bun Rieu. I guarantee you won't find a better one in Oakland.
The base of Bun Rieu is tomato and crab and the noodles used in this dish are round and smooth rice vermicelli. The crab meatballs or crab cakes are moist and delicious. I promise, once you try Bum Mam Soc Trang, you'll be back for more of their great food and service!
Pho Ga, Photo by Lisa Lau
4. Pho Ga Huong Que Cafe
Who doesn’t think of chicken noodle soup when winter hits? The chicken noodle soup, or Pho Ga, at Pho Ga Huong Que Cafe located on 7th Avenue in East Oakland always hits the target for warmth and deliciousness. The simplicity of fresh noodles, chicken, and broth is always a home run.
You do have to make some selections for noodles and chicken. I typically choose flat rice noodles because of their silky texture. You can select chicken either on the bone or boneless and shredded. If not dining alone, each person may want to order their own bowl of noodle soup and share a half or whole chicken.
What enhances this bowl of chicken noodle soup even more is the amazing ginger scallion oil. A spoonful of this in the soup is enough to make you swoon.
Ramen Shop, Photo by Lisa Lau
5. Ramen Shop
I love a good ramen and I'm not talking about the instant version made with boiling water and a packet of seasoning. Although Oakland is not known to be a ramen hot spot in the Bay Area, I can't deny that the Ramen Shop in Rockridge is pretty darn special.
With a Chez Panisse-trained chef, the Ramen Shop uses top shelf ingredients to add another dimension to this fundamental noodle bowl. Their menu changes daily so expect to enjoy a special bowl of ramen you won’t find anywhere else.
Whether you are looking for a bowl of ho fun, pho, or ramen, Oakland offers plenty of options to keep you warm and cozy during this cold season and beyond.