Hung Lam isn't exactly guarded when pressed to reveal the secret to making his Bun Rieu, the Vietnamese tomato and crab based soup. "Not only is it really my mom's recipe, but she's also in the kitchen with me, making sure that I'm doing everything right. Between us though, the recipe is a secret." We spoke with Lam, a.k.a. the Soup Junkie, after falling for his Bun Rieu at Vinyl Wine Bar, where he's currently popping up on Friday nights. A quarter of a Dungeness crab goes into each bowl ($11), both as a base for the briny broth and to create a crab omelet so light that it floats. A half-dozen tiny pork meatballs add contrast with their chewiness and a generous mound of springy rice noodles ties the whole dish together.
Lam, a true local boy who grew up in the inner-Richmond, also deflects praise to his girlfriend Annie. "She's my expediter, my web designer and my social media manager." When asked about the prevalence of women in his life and business, he laughs. "Between my mom and Annie, I have some serious quality control. If I'm doing something wrong, they're not at all afraid to tell me!"
In the long term, Lam hopes to have his own small, slightly upscale place in the Mission, citing the Wise Sons Deli guys as "great role models." Noting the sudden surge in ramen places, he says, "There really aren't any nice places for Vietnamese and Chinese noodle soups, and that's what I hope to put the spotlight on."
Soup Junkie, Fridays from 6-10PM at Vinyl Winebar, 359 Divisadero St. (at Oak), see website for more details