While The Astronomer was visiting his family and exploring the Vietnamese food scene in Alabama, I stayed in San Diego to search for meaningful employment. With the economy in such tip-top shape, I was turning down offers left and right—ha! During my time in San Diego, I had a pretty sweet routine of searching for jobs in the morning and then hanging out at my grandparents’ house in the afternoon. They’d feed me extremely well and in return I provided quality massages and good laughs.
One afternoon, my grandma expressed interest in going shopping for some new threads. She and my grandpa were heading to the Big Apple for the first time ever and she wanted to rock Manhattan in style. We settled on a date and my grandpa suggested that we fuel up on pho before giving our credit cards a workout. We nodded in agreement.
On an uncharacteristically cloudy Friday morning, my grandparents and I set out for some hot noodles and stylin’ wares.
First stop, Pho Hoa. Pho Hoa is located in a Vietnamese enclave centered around an unsavory stretch of El Cajon Boulevard. My family has been frequenting this noodle shop for years and years. Over time, the restaurant’s interior has gotten a lot spiffier, while the exterior remains dingy—at least the laughing cow is as jolly as can be.
Pho Hoa serves only one dish—pho bo. Although the menu doesn’t offer breadth, it offers a great deal of depth due to the countless combinations of beefy odds and ends available. My grandma and I both settled on the pho tai (rare beef) nam (cooked beef brisket) sach (tripe), while my grandpa chose pho tai nam gan (tendon).
Pho Hoa’s broth is clear, flavorful, fragrant and contains a thoroughly authentic dose of MSG. The various cuts of meat were plentiful and high in quality, especially the thinly sliced rare cuts. We garnished our bowls of pho with bean sprouts, limes, basil, sawtooth herb, jalapenos, hoisin sauce and Sriracha chili sauce. Our plate of greens wasn’t as huge as those in Vietnam, but it was definitely piled high enough.
While I can’t say that pho in America is vastly better than Vietnam’s, I can say with confidence that the pho bo at Pho Hoa is better than any bowl of pho bo I ate in Saigon.
After our pho fest, we headed over to Fashion Valley to find my grandma some new blouses.
My Ong Ngoai and Ba Ngoai walking through the mall.
My Ong Ngoai reading at Talbots while waiting for Ba Ngaoi to shop.
My Ong Ngoai and Ba Ngoai enjoying some massage-action at Brookstone.
4717 El Cajon Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92115