What to Eat This Week: Crispy Pork Belly with Woven Vermicelli from Lúa
You know that feeling when you try a restaurant, order one dish, and keep coming back for that same dish, even though the rest of the menu looks delicious, too? That’s how I feel at Lúa, a new Vietnamese spot that softly opened a couple months ago on Williams.
To be fair, the folks at Lúa seem to know that the bánh hỏi heo quay is the star of their menu. It’s at the center of the photo of the spread of dishes that graces every plastic “scan QR code here” sign at every table. It’s also a dish that you’d have a hard time finding elsewhere, partly due to the labor involved. The base of the dish is angel hair-thin rice vermicelli noodles, delicately woven together into a sheet. Look, I’ll usually go for a thick noodle over a thin noodle any day, but when you tightly weave noodles together so that they form a perfect little rectangular sheet? You get a whole new texture: airy, light, tickly on the tongue.
And though you can order your bánh hỏi with a number of different proteins, I can’t imagine that any could surpass this roast pork belly: layers of lean meat with succulent, slightly gelatinous fat, each slice capped off with bubbly, crackly crispy skin. The seasoning is subtle, allowing the flavor of the pork to shine.
Plus, it’s just a fun dish to eat. Tear one of the giant lettuce leaves in half, dip a vermicelli sheet into the garlicky fish sauce, add a piece of pork, garnish with a mint leaf, add pickled carrot and daikon, and throw in the sliced cucumber for extra crunch, or eat it on the side as a palate cleanser. Your hands will smell like fish sauce when you’re done, and you couldn’t be happier about it.
Lúa, 3971 N Williams Ave Ste 103, lua-restaurant.com, @luapdx