How silly of me to order a bowl of phở when I dined at Phở King about a year ago. In spite of the restaurant’s name, I’ve since learned that phở doesn’t actually reign supreme here. The specialty at this El Cajon Boulevard shop is hủ tiếu, a slightly sweet and thoroughly porky variety of noodle soups. I guess Hủ Tiếu King doesn’t have as nice (or racy) a ring to it as Phở King does.
My uncle Thanh and aunt Phuong were the first to venture to the hủ tiếu side of the menu. Once it received their seal of approval, word quickly spread to my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and mother. I love how news of good eats travels very quickly in my food-loving family.
The Astronomer and I sat down for a proper hủ tiếu introduction during our previous trip to San Diego. Even though my mother had already downed twelve or so bowls in the span of a few months, she was down for another go with us.
Taking my mother’s expert lead, The Astronomer and I both ordered the hủ tiếu Mỹ Tho with clear tapioca noodles (hủ tiếu dai) and with the broth served on the side. Originally from the Mekong Delta city of Mỹ Tho, the noodle soup contained everything under the sun. Atop the tangle of chewy noodles were bits of liver, chives, barbecued pork, ground pork, shrimp, fried shallots, Vietnamese celery leaves (rau cần), fried fish balls, meat balls, squid, pork stomach, scallions, and pork hearts. Whew!
As requested, the pork broth was served on the side, along with a red-tinged ground pork sauce that is unique to this restaurant’s interpretation of the dish.
Also on the side was a plate of garnishes containing lime wedges, fresh bean sprouts, and Vietnamese celery leaves.
My favorite condiment was the restaurant’s house-made chili sauce, which contained plenty of oil, garlic, and a certain je nais se quois that was most likely a heavy hit of Ajinomoto.
After pouring in the special ground pork sauce and adding some garnishes, I mixed up the bowl’s contents and went in for a taste. With so many different meaty nuggets competing for my chopsticks’ attention, every bite was delightful and different. I was particularly fond of the ones that contained a mix of offal, pork-soaked noodles, and chili oil. Mmm, boy! So, this is what the fam’s been raving about.
The hủ tiếu Mỹ Tho at Phở King is a solid effort. For those looking to sample a noodle soup that’s different from the usual phở and bún bò Huế, my family highly recommends hủ tiếu.
4658 El Cajon Boulevard
San Diego, CA 92115