Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kim Huong - Tustin

When my heart aches, when my brain is fried, when all hope seems lost, I turn to noodle soup. It soothes me more than any other meal, more than any other remedy. It blunts the harshness of life, stamps down those prickly thoughts that make my hair stand on end. All it takes is a few sips and a slurp.

Here, in a humble bowl of starch and soup, is the antidote -- my personal anti-depressant.

And it doesn't even have to be particularly great to do the job. I once bought a mediocre bowl of saimin from a Hawaiian take-out joint. The broth tasted like it was diluted from a seasoning packet, the noodles were mushy, and it came with nothing but boiled cabbage. Yet, it was exactly what I needed, at exactly the right time, like a faithful friend.

What it does need to be is hot. Rocket hot. Steaming, billowing, blow-on-it-before-you-sip hot. When it's served, I should be able to put my face over the bowl and feel the warmth of its vapors on my cheeks.

Also, it must be cheap. Nothing over $10 is acceptable. The sweet spot is between $5 and $7. Lower, of course, is always better.

The chicken pho (pho ga) at Kim Huong fulfills both requirements. It's $3.10, served up fast and fuming.

Tangled up with the silken ribbons of rice noodle will be boiled chicken leg, bone intact, skin attached; or if I'm lucky, also a few slices of breast meat.

It's decent, honest, acts like a blanket that warms from the inside -- and that's all it needs to be.

Kim Huong serves other things, too. There are steam trays stocked with an impressive array of dishes that all look very well-prepared. I bought a spring roll for $0.45 to go with my noodles, and it was as good as any I've ever had.

The only problem is that the place closes promptly at 6 P.M. So when I need the curative powers of a hot bowl, I have to rush out of the office by 5. Or else it's lunch. But usually with it, I can coast for the rest of the afternoon, basking in its after effects -- long enough to last until I can crawl back into bed.

Kim Huong
17311 McFadden Ave # B
Tustin, CA‎ 92780‎

85°C Bakery Café - Irvine


At 6:19 PM, Blogger Frequent Traveler said...

Noodles are fabulous comfort food -even if they are accompanied by soup :)

At 9:00 PM, Blogger KirkK said...

Hi Elmo - Man, you can't get bottled water for $3 here in San Diego.....maybe a Banh Mi, maybe! Noodle soup is great comfort food, we had it for breakfast every morning in Luang Prabang.

At 10:42 PM, Blogger imjustatree said...

gotta love soup, especially with the winter comin up....those are some great prices man...gona have to check it out. i've nver had chicken pho before either. i always end up getting beef.

At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmm.. I've had a cold, so this is the perfect lunch suggestion!

At 7:14 PM, Blogger dumplings said...


Did you just say chicken 'leg' in their soup? I am so there.

At 9:24 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


ESPECIALLY if they're accompanied by soup! HA!


Yeah, the price is un-frickin-believable. I told a co-worker about it, he went for three straight days in a row once. At one point he actually ordered two bowls per sitting.


This would be my first chicken pho too. It's not going to substitute for beef pho, especially a nice brisket pho. It was good though...they even give you a special type of dipping sauce just for the chicken.


Oh this would be so perfect for colds. It'll cure what ails ya! Except I forgot to mention, it is also closed on Sundays.


YEP! Chicken leg! Although usually it's like half a chicken leg and various other parts too. If you take it to-go, they only give you slices of breast...and they charge you $0.50 for packing it up.

At 10:53 PM, Blogger Chubbypanda said...

"The broth tasted like it was diluted from a seasoning packet, the noodles were mushy, and it came with nothing but boiled cabbage."

Ahahahaha! Sounds like the noodles my mom used to make for me after school. I miss them.

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

Noodle soup is easily my favorite comfort food as well. I think you probably could have guessed that though. ;)

This is that place that used to be called Oriental Chinese Food To Go or some such thing, yeah? It's right across McFadden from Sushi Kappo Suzumaru and Kairakutei and I somehow always end up in that center. Ah, familiarity.

But I hear the spot is pretty good, I've been meaning to check it out. Thanks for the heads up about Sunday.

At 6:01 PM, Blogger Passionate Eater said...

You are my kindred spirit Elmo, I feel the same way! Heck, I can be appeased with an instant 0.99 ramen noodle bowl!

At 1:52 AM, Blogger joanh said...

yeah.. i love your first few paragraphs.. it's totally true. .. noodles are the ultimate comfort food. the price is awesome!

At 1:54 AM, Blogger joanh said...

ps.. man I wish there was a tuna danish at the 85 degrees C in Taipei! You make it sound so great! Do they have the blueberry swirl cheesecake? Can't wait to check out the new plaza when I'm back in town.

At 6:01 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Thanks for the nice comment, as always! But I bet the food where you are in Taipei trumps whatever we may have at the Diamond Jamboree plaza! That tuna danish is truly awesome though.

At 3:40 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

I hate cheap Asian people, especially when there is no reason to be cheap!

I can say this about Asian people because I am Asian ;)

I visited this place today. Its in one of the worst parts of Tustin FYI in one of the grossest strip malls in existence.

There are tons of video camera's in this place. I wonder if they get robbed a lot? They also have a $20.00 bill posted. Typically owners of stores post the first piece of cash they made. But on theirs it says "This is not real". I guess people stole the other one? Either that or they are typical paranoid Asians.

Asian food, especially in a steam table operation is one of the lowest food costs. There is no need to be cheap and to skimp!

I ordered the Pho Ga. Normally its $5.75, but th ey have a 50% off sale going right now. If you order other Pho dishes, you will pay full price. Imemdiately they counter lady asked "Do you want extra noodles?" no "Extra Chicken"? no. Just give me the regular Pho I told her.

I already got a bad feeling. At most Pho places, you dont need extra anything as there is so much stuff.

Anyway, then she asks me "Would you like water" as she points to water in styrofoam cups. I say OK. And she charges me 50 cents for tap water!!!!! They charge everyone that goes through there this. Thats quite a scam they got going there and quite a rip off. There is no need to be this cheap!

My Pho comes. I stir it. I think that they gave me soup with no noodles because it stirs too easily. I look closer, and there are some noodles...but not much. And its the thick noodles...not the typical Pho noodles.

I got about 5 pieces (small) of chicken and that was it.

The broth was very very good though. Everything had a good flavor but the texture of the thick noodles threw it off. And the lack of "stuff" in my bowl turned me off.

There is no need to be this stingy....even if you are Asian

(I didn't tip BTW)

Diamond Dog

At 4:01 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

AH Diamond Dog!! I was beginning to wonder where you went! Hadn't heard from you in ages!

Anyway, yes they do charge $0.50 for water. At first I didn't notice it because I was payin' a total of $3.80 for my lunch of pho (with tax), which is still less than what I'd normally spend on lunch -- and I hemorrage $0.50 just breathing.

But that sucks that you got a smidgen of chicken when I got A LOT of chicken on my trip -- at least two slices of breast meat and half a leg. I even remarked to myself, this is more meat than I would put in a soup if I had a restaurant and I were charging less than $4 for pho. Yes, I, too, am a stingy Asian!

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Its the principle of the whole thing. They lead you to believe its free and then charge you. I bet most customers don't know they are paying for it. I watched as the lady pointed to the water and said "do you want a drink or water" They should put a sign up by it saying $.50 cents. Its "scammy" and that pisses me off...not the 50 cents.

Also, on your OC Weekly articles, can you put pictures of the food in the articles and not people? People is great! On the write of of 85 degrees C I thought to myself "I already know what a chubby white girl looks like...what I can't picture is that tuna danish that sounded fascinating!"

At 7:32 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

I agree. A sign would solve it. But if it's not the fifty cents, why didn't you say "No, I don't want to pay $0.50 for tap water" when you realized it was happening?

Of all the people I would expect to stand up for the principle of things (especially at restaurants), it's The Diamond Dog!

Oh yeah, I forgot to comment on what you wrote about the amount of noodles. I gotta say, they must've really had it out for you that day, Dog!!! Or perhaps you just eat more than I do?

As you can see by the pic I took, I got the right ratio of noodles to soup. And it's been consistently like that since I've been back. Not too much. Not too little. Just right. How come this is starting to feel like a Goldilocks and The Three Bears moment?

Though I do have to share this story, since we're on the subject: my co-worker told me that the one time he requested extra noodle, they gave him WIDE noodles. He said it was like the type that's used for beef chow fun or pad see ew. That made him livid.

I asked him, "So did you ask them to take it back?".

"No," he said, "it's only 3 bucks. I just bought another one! Ate both of 'em."

Ever since I told him about the place, the guy's returned every week, sometimes three times a week. In a row! He was probably there when you were!

I think he's obsessed with the deal. Also, he was a fellow Noodle Avenue fan.

About 85 Degrees:


You can see it on the top tray, on the upper left of the picture. I kid you not -- the best thing I've tasted that involved tuna and bread. Heck, it was one of the best things I've ever tasted, period.

Next to that, on the right, is the almond danish. Also incredibly good. Directly adjacent to the almond danish, on the lower tray, is the coffee bread that I wrote about. Directly above the coffee bread is the calamari rolls.

And oh, I'll waive the $0.50 I would normally charge for the posting the picture. HAHAHA! ;-)

Elmomonster "The Stingy Asian" out.


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