Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa, Alhambra – Pho Gone Wild
As annoying as the commercials are, I find them hilarious. Imagine. You get married to the woman of your dreams and you have a baby girl. So angelic, so beautiful. She kisses you good night every night and tells you that your her hero. Next thing you know, she’s ‘developing’ in jr. high and no longer hugs you anymore because she has a crush at school. Her nights are spent inside her room on the phone, and no longer in the living room. Then she starts going to dances and before you know it, she’s on her way to college. Your sweet little girl is going to become a woman finally. But god forbid that one night, at around 2:43 am, you see your daughter taking a beer bong out of a halved sparkletts water jug on Channel 13 for what seems like a ‘documentary’ on college life. An office-size jug. God forbid. When we have children one day, we all just have to let go and pray that she stays on the right path.
And its the same way I perceive the Central Vietnamese noodle soup called ‘bun bo hue’, literally meaning ‘noodles + beef + from the Hue region. We all know pho, the celebrated beef noodle soup from Vietnam. Pure in broth, flavor and texture… with simple additions that make this one bowl of heaven. But after one wild weekend in Hue, pho is no longer pho. She’s lost a lot of beef and has grown other stuff, like braised beef, pork blood cubes, pork knuckles and pork sausage. Her hair is no longer a light yellow/brown, it’s red. And boy has her attitude changed, no longer quiet and subtle with gestures, she’s loud and not afraid to bite. Think of it as noodle soup gone wild.
In actuality, this soup has no resemblance to pho. The soup is completely different in taste because the predominant ingredient is lemongrass in a slightly spicy beef broth. Toppings usually consist of pork knuckles and pork blood cubes. For garnishing, bean sprouts, red cabbage, mint and lime are used. I searched the Chowhound boards and learned about a place in Alhambra called Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa, not to be confused with Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa in Rosemead.
Bun Bo Hue (Lemongrass-Flavored Beef Bone Soup with Noodles)
This comes with one large pork knuckle, pork blood cubes, braised beef shank slices and pork meatloaf (gia lua). If you don’t want any of the above, simply let them know. The shank and meatloaf are good. You can buy your own meatloaf for only $2! The noodles are made with rice and as thick as spaghetti noodles (unlike the thin pho rice noodles) but go very well with the soup. The soup is so good that I’ll actually doggy-baggy it and eat it the next day. Eat this with the fixings, the red cabbage, bean sprouts, mint and lime really take this dish to another level. If you want to spice this up, I suggest you use the sriracha chili garlic sauce (has seeds in it) versus the traditional non-seed chili sauce used for pho. No hoisin allowed in here!!! $5.25
Centerfold of the Pork Knuckle
Usually comes with the skin on, but once you get past that, the meat is very tender.
Pork Blood Cubes
Not everyone will like this, but I think it’s delicious. I think of it as chocolate and gobble it up.
Bun Bo Hue Fixings
Red cabbage, bean sprouts, lime, jalapeno, mint and this one herb I can never identify. Wandering Chopsticks, Master of Vietnamese food, please identify this for me!
Nem Nuong Rolls (3 for $3.75)
You can choose to order these pre-rolled or you can try and have some fun and get your hands dirty. These contain lettuce, a crispy shrimp roll, charbroiled pork and a chive. The sauce used is similar to nuoc cham, but is thicker because it has beaten egg and sometimes honey in it. The rolls are good, but not quite as good as Brodard in Little Saigon, Westminster. If you decide to order the nem nuong party pack, you’ll receive a whole plate of various meats including the charbroiled pork, sour pork patties (good!) and crispy shrimp rolls. A bowl of hot water is provided for you to soak rice paper and roll your own joint up.
Centerfold of Nem Nuong Charboiled Pork Rolls
Cha gio egg rolls go well with pho, and these go well with Bun Bo Hue, in my opinion.
Super Perverted Food Porn Close-Up
Notice the crispy egg rolls contain small pieces of shrimp. This is true dedication. It’s like rolling a taquito within another taquito without making it big like a burrito.
Wandering Chopsticks was helpful enough to explain the sauce to me. Check out her version of nem nuong on skewers.
Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa
1700 W Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91804