Mami King - Buena Park
There's a theory that every noodle dish in the world is descended from China. It may still be up for intense debate, but while I'm no food historian, I would tend to agree. If not all noodles, then at the very least just those with a striking resemblance to the Chinese idea of serving noodles in a soup.
Among many examples, the dish has been repatriated to become ramen in Japan, bakmi in Indonesia. As with every noodle soup in Asia, both have become an indelible part of those cuisines.
Same goes for the Philippines, which enjoy a similar dish called mami: the Chinese/Filipino version of noodle soup. And where you can get a bowl of mami, you can also get siopao: the Filipino take on the Chinese bao, steamed buns filled with meat.
In Orange County, the place noted for its mami is Mami King in Buena Park.
Take a look at that broth. Have you ever seen anything richer and more evocative of chocolate milk? If it were any creamier, I think it would actually have to be chocolate milk.
Those who are familiar with ramen would be mislead if they think this is a tonkotsu broth. It is not. The brownness comes from the slow-braised hunks of beef they put into it, which is not unlike the hulking tender chunks you'd find in niu rou mian, Chinese beef noodle soup. Here, the beef takes on a kind of sweetness that may be too cloying for some. It's so sweet it almost tastes like it's covered in caramel.
I shared a bowl and though I liked it, my tolerance was tested.
The broth, however, is poured on hot. And I mean tongue-scorching, napalm fire, scalding hot--exactly how I prefer it. It's so hot it even tends to overcook the thin and stringy egg noodle.
Below the soup hides what seems like an never-ending supply of that beef, and shredded white meat chicken and a few pork-stuffed wontons. You get your $6.50's worth in proteins with this dish.
Truth be told, I actually like the siopao ($1.99) more than the mami. The fluffy cotton-soft buns are thick, perhaps too thick. But its gentle, pillowy bite brings a sweetness that comforts as much a bosom to a baby. Whether you choose the bola bola, or the pork, or the chicken, you slather it with a dipping sauce that will kind of remind you of hoisin, but not really.
Take the bola bola over the others, even if it's more expensive by 50 cents. Why? The thing harbors salted duck egg, pieces of Chinese sausage and more pork. Chinese influence or not, what's not up for the debate is that the combo is delicious.
Mami King Restaurant
6901 La Palma Ave
Buena Park, CA 90620
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*Special Thanks to Monster Munching location scout Cecile for the tip.