*** Update, Noble Chef is under new ownership. The folks that used to run Noble Chef have decided to retire. A brief update can be found here.
Sometimes you just gotta go with your instincts....about 3 years ago we were at a store in one of those indistinct strip malls along Balboa Avenue, as we left there was the wonderful smell of garlic and soy sauce, and even better, of something being fried in the air! And we did what that old commercial said, and "followed our nose, it always knows..." up to the humble storefront of The Noble Chef.
As we had already had dinner I added this to our list of places to check-out and moved on. A few months later I decided to try it out. I saw the menu of standard Chinese Fast Food fare out front, but knew for sure that it wasn't beef broccoli or teriyaki chicken that I smelled that night. But I went ahead and started ordering Orange Chicken and such, but a photograph of Chiu Chow Fried Rice caught my eye, and I ordered that along with the other dishes. Well, to make a long story short, the American Chinese dishes were not very good - but that fried rice was perfect, exactly to my taste and texture. I like my fried rice on the "dry" side, and this did the trick! Funny how things like this happen. Had I eaten only the standard Chinese Fast Food, I would've never returned, but for some reason I'd ordered that fried rice.
So for the next couple of months it was Chiu Chow fried rice at least once or twice a week. It got to the point where I'd walk in the door and the ladies working there would know exactly what I'd want - Chiu Chow fried rice. Now I don't know if this is authentic - from what my (very limited) knowledge of Chiu Chow, otherwise known as Chaozhou, is that this type of cooking has alot in common with that of the ethnic Chinese from Vietnam who managed to flee when Saigon fell in 1975. (Anyone with more accurate info-please let me know). So there are alot of Southeast Asian overtones in the cooking. For those in Los Angeles, think Newport Seafood. What I do know is that there's a very generous amount of chopped Gailan, Char Siu, and 5-6 large shrimp in this dish. It's one of the most expensive items on the menu ($6.55), but it's two meals for me. The first day all of the shrimp and about two-thirds of the rice is eaten. The next day I fry two eggs and finish everything.
But the Chiu Chow fried rice is not the best dish. One day we ordered the Shrimp with XO sauce fried rice(also $6.55), and lo' and behold, this is what I smelled that first night months ago. With chili pepper, shrimp, tons of garlic, and XO Sauce (what is actually XO sauce???) this is a a garlic-chilihead dream! You can request the dish to be more or less spicy as desired. Once I brought this to our office and our Administrative Assistant loved this dish. A friend of mine who for a time lived a few blocks away told me that the Chinese food here was unpalatable. So one day I brought him the Shrimp with XO Sauce fried rice, which he loved, and he couldn't believe it came from The Noble Chef. Amazing what a serendipitous event can lead too!
The Noble Chef is a real Mom-and-Pop operation. Your order is taken, than is cooked on the wok stove by "the Noble Chef" in full view, flames leaping in the air! Sometimes he's juggling three woks at once. Sorry 'bout the blurry picture, but the Noble Chef moves really quickly........The Shrimp Tomato rice is also pretty good. Service is friendly, and really nice once they get to know you. There are alot of people having noodle soup - but I haven't progressed to that step yet.
Sometimes doing one thing real well (thus the One Trick-Pony monniker) is worth it!
The Noble Chef
6159 Balboa Avenue
San Diego, CA 92111