I’ve had Phuong Nga Banh Cuon lingering in my bookmarks for quite awhile. You see, Jake isn’t as enamoured with Vietnamese food as I am and I didn’t think Phuong Nga Banh Cuon would be a place he really wanted to try. The stars aligned and he ate some breakfast without me, allowing me to go explore on my own. I stopped by Phuong Nga Banh Cuon on Saturday morning for a little breakfast.
Phuong Nga Banh Cuon is located off University Avenue in City Heights, right near the 15. Burger King is across the street. It’s a little strip mall that was mostly full of cars, but I managed to park by the Hong Kong Market at the end of the strip. Phuong Nga Banh Cuon has four items on the item for takeout and plenty of catering options on the wall. I saw a lady bringing out several trays of hot food while I was deciding what I wanted to try.
The back of the menu has photos and English translations for all of the items available. I had no idea what most of this stuff was. I was just curious and wanted to try something different.
I ordered the #4 which came with Steamed Rolls with Wet Cake and Fried Pork Paste [$5.99]. I realize that none of those words sound particularly awesome when you think of it as food. Wet cake? Fried pork paste? What was I getting myself into?
In this plate you get a bag of veggies (bean sprouts, cucumbers, basil) and a cup of fish sauce for dipping.
These are the Banh Cuon or “steamed rolls”. The rice paper wrapper is warm and a bit sticky. It’s kind of like a rolled taco that’s made out of warm, chewy rice paper. The filling has minced pork, minced woodear mushrooms, and shallots (though I thought it was onions, but Wikipedia tells me it’s usually shallots). The steamed rolls can be difficult to pick up and put into your mouth since they have zero stability. The filling starts to fall out a little once you pick it up, but somehow you manage to dip it into fish sauce and get it into your mouth and chew happily. The fish sauce gives it a little bit of a sweetish flavor and I really liked the texture of the wrapper. I only managed to eat 3 of these before I started getting full.
The texture got a little weird on me as the wrapper got colder so I prefered eating these hot!
Next up: the fried pork paste. Underneath the balls of fried pork where just plain sheets of the rice wrapper (wet cake). I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it, so I wrapped the warm rice paper around the fried pork paste and added some basil and cucumber and made my own little roll. It was quite tasty! The fried pork paste has kind of a … squishy texture. But I don’t mean squishy in a bad way. It was kind of squishy-spongy but it really just tasted like a fried pork meatball. Maybe it’s crispy if you eat it right away, but I drove back to Jake’s first so I’m unsure if it’s supposed to be crispy or not. In any case, I liked it.
I barely managed a dent in this giant plate of food. With tax the whole thing only set me back $6.50. It was an adventure trying this new food and it was cheap which was a bonus if you ask me.
While I was waiting for my plate of food to be prepared, I wandered around the strip mall looking for coffee. I found it at Cafe Dore.
Cafe Dore is a tiny hole in the wall right next to the laundromat. There were a few people in there. Some were watching TV. Some were playing some kind of game in the corner. I walked up the counter and asked for an iced milk coffee and the gentlemen working there had it ready for me in about 30 seconds. He already had the coffee ready to go. All he had to do was add ice to a styrofoam cup and dump in the coffee with condensed milk.
Whoa, drinking this was like getting kicked in the teeth! It is super strong but creamy and a little bit sweet from the sweetened condensed milk. I loved it! I love trying new things!
Phuong Nga Banh Cuon
4141 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92105
4135 University Ave
San Diego, CA 92105