About seven or eight months ago, I noticed that a new shop had opened across the street from the now (sadly) defunct 79 Supermarket. In the place of.... if I recall correctly a Billiard Hall, was a noodle shop called 777 Noodle House.
And while I initially thought it was just another "Mi" (egg noodle soup) joint, I noticed the script on the window, along with Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang written everywhere. Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang, also known as Phenom Penh Noodles or Chazhou Noodle, a tapioca noodle based dish that from what I have read originated in Cambodia, and evolved as it made it's into Southern Vietnam, becoming a dish I've had a couple of times Hủ tiếu Mỹ Tho(named after the city of Mỹ Tho) . Much more info can be found on this post on Viet World Kitchen. I was fascinated so I decided to check the place out.
The interior is fairly spartan, and the plasma television is always on Fox News for some reason. You can see the bones of what the place was in a former life. The menu is fairly large, with over 100 dishes.... and yes, all the prices end with '7'. The prices are very inexpensive, with bowls of noodle soup starting at $4.77, and the upper range of prices of $6.77 for items like seafood dishes at $6.77.
And yes, the owners are Cambodian, and also Chazhou (Chiuchow), so in case you were expecting the fragrances of Kroeung or Prahok wafting through the air, and Khmer dishes like A-Mok or Samla Kako, you'll be sorely disappointed. Most everything takes a Chazhou turn, with a few Thai style and Vietnamese style dishes.
So of course I had the Hủ Tiếu Nam Vang (Chazhou Noodle Soup - $4.77), which is pretty much a bargain.
I believe this is the first time I've had this without any offal in it. There are two slices of pretty lean, and somewhat chewy pork, that are decently flavored, and a couple of shrimp. Some ground pork floats around in the broth which is fairly light, somewhat porky, with some nice salty tones (MSG). The blanched bean sprouts adds texture and flavor to everything. But........ this doesn't hold a candle to the "dry" (Kho) version, also $4.77:
The noodles had been blanched in broth and was mixed with a bit of what tasted like oyster sauce. One time the noodles were perfect, the second a bit too mushy and overcooked. But what I really enjoyed about this version was the soup on the side.... well not exactly only the soup on the side.
There's one more item that I really enjoyed.... the Fried Leek Cakes ($2.97):
The folks always apologize because this takes a while.... but it is worth it. The dough for the cakes is made with glutinous rice flour, making it both sticky, a bit gooey, and crunchy at the same time. The leek filling is molten as well. The flavors are like life... a little sweet, a little salty, a little bitter.
I brought my leftovers home, and the Missus really enjoyed it even though it was cold and had loss it's crunch. She wasn't a big fan of the Nuoc Mam Cham, which She found took away from the flavor of the leek cake. Speaking of the Nuoc Mam Cham. the folks here are really nice. When they packed the remaining two leek cakes to go, they made sure to add a little container of Nuoc Mam Cham. Those little things matter.
Some of the other dishes aren't as successful in my opinion. Once I had the Crispy Egg Noodles with Beef ($5.77), which was pretty cheap.
The noodles were either packaged or made far in advance. They were more crumbly than crisp. The beef was fairly tough, but at least they used Gailan. There's a combo Chinese Fast Food - Louisiana Fried Chicken Shop next door (I kid you not), and I think they share the same kitchen. This was very fast-foodish. I've heard that some of the other dishes (there are a bunch of dinner specials - many seem Thai, aka curries and tom yum) like the Fried Rice (I was listening "Little K") are pretty good.
I like the folks here, the two women are very nice, the gentleman is reserved but very nice as well. He laughed when I actually bought a lottery ticket here..... I told him it had to be lucky since I got it from "777", right? Well, maybe next time......
777 Noodle House
4686 University Avenue
San Diego, CA 92105
Open Daily 8am - 9pm