It’s been brutally hot outside. The sun has seemingly turned evil, hurtling towards the earth with extreme prejudice like a day-glow answer to the moon from Majora’s Mask. But I kind of like New York in high heat, if only because most everyone must eventually succumb to the sweat-drenched futility of it all. As a total slob, it’s something I’m pretty okay with.
Suffice to say, I ended up with a big bowl of seafood noodle soup, in what can easily be called not-soup-weather. However, this is one of my favorite bowls of soup, hidden on the menu of one of the best sandwich shops in Brooklyn. At Ba Xuyen (4222 8th Ave., Brooklyn, NY), the bánh mì are so good that, when a friend of mine visits New York, he buys multiple sandwiches for the duration of his trip. So good that I often find it difficult to order anything else. Even after resolving to order the soup, eat the soup and write about the soup, I was tempted to fall back on old habits. (With two people, I suggest sharing a soup and sandwich. You can even combine them as a sort of Vietnamese dip, which is highly recommended.)
The soup differentiates itself from a lot of Vietnamese noodle soups I’ve had, with a lighter broth than the kind used in phở. Additional ingredients — the shrimp, tofu and greens — are incredibly fresh. The fish odor is something that comes on strong at first, but dissolves as soon as you start stirring everything up.
Due to the limited seating capacity at the restaurant, many children and their mothers sat across from me with afterschool bánh mì (which, as an afterschool snack, certainly beats my old Pepperidge Farm and daytime television ritual), and to them I can only offer an apology. To watch in likely horror as I became consumed by sweat is no way to eat a meal, and potentially traumatizing for the young. Me eating soup is disgusting in all weather, especially at the very bottom of the bowl, a sort of undulating Sriracha wave pool I call “the red tide.” However, it is in this final mask of sinus-loosening steam that it’s all worth it.
Chris Tonucci feels some embarrassment when he takes pictures of food, but he’ll do it anyway. He lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He enjoys simple meals, The Replacements and the Heat that stars Burt Reynolds.
Photo credit: Chris Tonucci