[Milpitas, CA] The delightful mekala noodles and a taste of Phnom Penh at Noodle Hut

Cambodian food has a bit of mini-boom lately with all the press showered on Nyum Bai and Nite Yun. Opened quietly a couple of months ago in the unglamorous city of Milpitas with no press coverage and no professionally designed web site, Noodle Hut specializes in Cambodian noodles and congee. Its the latest one of many immigrant restaurants with the most generic sounding names possible. This one is so generic that I forgot why I bookmarked this restaurant when I was looking at getting some takeouts late in the evening.

Its very close to closing so I spent all of 30 seconds to study the menu before phoning in the order. I got:

Mekala- an absolute gem of a plate of noodle. Flat rice noodle with the perfect al-dente texture that resembled closer to that of the egg noodle in a bowl of proper Hong Kong wonton noodle than that of rice noodle in pad thai. Came with pork, pickled cabbage, hardboiled egg. One must pour all the garlic fish sauce, some spicy hoisin and hot sauce all over the noodle, squeeze some lime, stir the herbs together and taste the kaleidoscope of flavors that dances on the tongue- savory, sour, sweet, bitter, spicy all the same time and just right. The cilantro-tasting herb on the right side of the picture did a nice job in balancing out the other savory flavors. They chopped it up so wasn’t sure if its culantro. The egg was probably deemed to have been cooked too long by the American palate but not so by the Asian palate, and it had that tea-leaf eggy taste that I found pleasing (i.e. sulfurous).

The pork with a little fat attached at the end was the weak point of the dish. It looked blanched and was a bit bland and dry. The cut would probably do much better grilled or fried. Just get the other meat options.

If I was in the restaurant I’d order another plate. This is my favorite dish this month, and probably the cheapest one too.

The house special congee came with sliced pork, stomach, liver and congealed pork blood cube. The difference between this and a typical Cantonese congee with similar ingredients was this congee tasted a bit sour, and I couldn’t quite place where it came from. Perhaps some tangy fish sauce in the stock where they cooked the rice in. Decent.

The house special Phnom Penh noodle soup. Came with sliced, and ground pork, stomach, liver and shrimp in a porky-beefy-mushroomy soup. Its decent.

Their website says that they are affiliated with The Phnom Penh Noodle Shack in Long Beach. Their menus look very similar if not exactly the same. I have to come back and sample more of their menu. If anyone has been, please share your experience.

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Same mekala as last time. I dined in this time and given the condiment station at the table, I couldn’t re-create the flavors from last time. Ended up adding too much fish sauce and the whole bowl was too salty (due to my fault) as a result with none of the goodtness as last time. Set aside my own clumsiness, this time the noodle was also a bit soggy and that messed up the textural balance. Might be good to just order it to go with the sauces already in the sauce cups and measured.

Weekend special beef brisket noodle soup. Lots of five spice flavor, tender brisket, tendon. Broth was a little hot. The noodle dish was quite enjoyable.

Knom Hing, round and hollow bread with sesame on top. Interesting.

Ba-bong is basically mekala with stir fried beef instead. Beef was too salty and the flavor was too dominating. Messed up the flavor balance of the rest of the ingredients

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