[Hole in the Wall] Throw Pho Quang Trung's Chicken Pho Before Swine (Flu)

Chicken Pho Before Swine (Flu)

If the Obama administration were truly smart, it would tell Big Pharma to slag off. Go cure AIDS or cancer; don’t bother with swine flu. Barry would then fly into Little Saigon and announce to a wary nation that the best cure for the H1N1 virus is a steaming bowl of pho. But the president is still suffering through growing pains, so only nosotros naranjeros are privy to such an aromatic, soothing vaccine. And if Pho Dakao is the CVS of local pho ga (chicken pho) shops, then Pho Quang Trung is Walgreens.

Anyone who has passed through the northern border of Little Saigon knows this place: bright blue, near a Carl’s Jr. on Westminster Avenue, inside a Spanish-veranda-style building more common to Mexican seafood palaces than Vietnamese joints. It’s notorious among foodies for being one of the few places to sell beef-penis pho (like Oaxacan grasshoppers, more so-so novelty grub than an essential entrée) and sells other, better rarities such as snails mixed with green banana and a type of Vietnamese haggis that combines pork liver and other offal bits in a porridge of blood. You can try the bún, the many meat entrées and rice dishes, and enjoy a great lunch or dinner. But it’s the chicken pho that brings the crowds: Its glorious, musky broth seems more like its beef counterpart than the light liquid common to chicken pho. The noodles are a bit chewier than those at other places, but that just makes eating more fun.

The glory of pho is its contrasts, and a Quang Trung bowl is the proverbial symphony: the slurp of noodles and crunch of bean sprouts. Steaming broth releasing the basil leaf’s flavor. Spice it up with sriracha or sweeten with hoisin sauce. They throw in medallions of hen so big, thick and white they look like scallops. Don’t forget the jalapeño slices, a squirt of lemon and the bitter sawtooth leaf as a final adornment. Alternate between chopsticks and spoon. Even without the 50-percent-off-chicken-pho special that many Little Saigon restaurants continue to advertise (latest special craze: cheap lobster), Quang Trung is still more affordable than its competition: A small bowl will bloat your belly for four bucks and change, while a large can feed two for a bit more than $6. And it’s your loss if you don’t like liver and gizzards in your chicken pho, but specify that to the waiter. If you don’t say anything, those unappreciated chunks come along, and it’s bad manners to throw them away.

All meals end with a complimentary bowl of chilled red beans in a sweet soup. Obama, save us all! Make Pho Quang Trung your swine-flu czar!

Pho Quang Trung, 10072 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 638-2286.



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