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Colorful cans of jackfruit, papaya, banana blossom, rambutan, and longan line the aisles of the KC Supermarket in the Asian Village Shopping Center on east Kings Canyon. Pallets of 20-pound rice sacks guard the door to the Asian market, one of the most popular in town.
Exotic canned fruit, the cheapest substitute for a trip to Ho Chi Minh City, is readily available along with a wide selection of rice noodles, bamboo shoots, and sugar cane. Fresh bunches of cilantro sent the air in the produce department, where baskets and sturdy cookware can also be found. Inexpensive Asian accents, such as stationary ($2.99) and rugs ($7.99) are an easy way to spice up any apartment.
All of the regional ingredients needed for most Southeast Asian dishes can be found in this modes market. KC also has a large selection of teas and other popular Asian beverages in refrigerated cases. Packets of instant Thai tea and Boba tea are easy to make at home, or you can try your own bastardized version of Pho, the national soup of Vietnam.
For the real deal, Pho Phuong Nine restaurant, a few doors down from the KC market, boasts “the best soup in town.” Pho is a staple in Vietnam the way pizza is in suburbia- eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a midnight snack. A spicy soup made with meat and rice noodles, it kicks the shit out of Campbell's.
Pho can be made with beef (boø ) or chicken (gà), and is always spicy. The art of making stock is taken very seriously in Vietnam. The base for Pho is made with beef, pork, and/or chicken bones for rich flavor, and is well-spiced with salt, pepper, ginger, and sugar.
At Pho Phuong, a large bowl of beef or chicken Pho is a bargain at $4.25. With your choice of rare slices of steak, brisket, flank, tendon, tripe, or white meat chicken, a bowl is filling enough for a meal. Each heaping bowlful is served with bean sprouts, lime, and mint on the side, to flavor to your preference. No extra charge for sharing!
The basic soup of meat, noodles, and broth is flavored with green and white onions, cilantro, and chilies. Tables of diners sit in Pho Phuong with chopsticks in one hand and napkins in the other, tabbing tearing eyes, running noses, and sweating brows from the intense heat of the chilies (not biting directly into a chili makes the soup a bit more palatable for us bland Americans). A cool glass of “young coconut drink” for $1.50 can put out the chili fires. Chunks of white, creamy coconut meat sit at the bottom of a glass filled high with coco water and ice, offering sweet respite from an otherwise hot meal.
If it’s too hot for soup, the sandwich shop next door offers classic Vietnamese sandwiches for $2.00. A fresh baked baguette is filled with chicken, mayonnaise, pickled vegetables, and cool cucumber for a quick lunch or snack.
Top off your trip to Asian Village with a sweet boba tea smoothie at Boba Tea. Your choice of flavor (the green coconut and taro are standouts) is blended together with ice to make a thick, milkshake-like drink with black tapioca balls on the bottom. Steer clear of the papaya salad. The pungent smell will make you want to avoid Southeast Asian cuisine phoever, which would be a shame indeed.
Asian Village Shopping Center is located at 4903 E. Kings Canyon Ave. at S. Winery. Pho Phuong Nine is open 7 days 8am to 8pm.