Trong Khanh has been around for as long as I can remember and I’ve been going there for well over 10 years now. My favourite items there are the Pho Sate and the Cambodian Noodle Soup. Not every pho shop in town serves a Cambodian Noodle Soup. In fact, there are very few in Calgary and Trong Khanh is one of them. The Cambodian Noodle Soup comes in two versions – one with the toppings and noodles served in the clear pork based broth or the second with the same toppings and noodles, except with the broth on the side. The toppings for the Cambodian Noodle Soup usually include shrimp, crab sticks, cha siu (Chinese bbq pork) slices, pork slices, and slices of offal. I’m not an offal fan so I ask them to exclude it. Instead of the regular pho rice noodles, I usually ask for the special glass/clear noodle which is called hu tieu. This noodle is made of tapioca flour, not rice and once cooked it is more chewy, clear and somewhat sticky in texture compared to the regular rice noodles used in pho. The Cambodian Noodle Soup is usually garnished with diced scallions, cilantro, and fried shallots.
It had been a few years since my last visit to Trong Khanh. I haven’t been back as often in recent years not because the food is not as delicious, but because I’ve ventured out to try new places and different foods. On this recent visit a couple of weeks ago, I went with my coworkers for lunch. I had a hard time deciding between my two favourite dishes. In the end, I decided to have the Sate Beef with Rice Noodle Soup ($8.25), which is commonly known as sate beef pho. As with any other homestyle dish, there are no two places that make the sate beef pho the same. This version at Trong Khanh is milkier than the versions from other places. In the past, I remember it having a slight coconut flavour in the soup although this time I couldn’t really taste the coconut. The soup is not as spicy as it looks. In fact, my dining companions and I didn’t find the soup to be that spicy at all compared to the other sate beef pho that we’ve had. The soup was flavourful but I would say the flavours were more mild/muted on this visit compared to that of other places.
Though I enjoy the food at Trong Khanh a lot, what keeps me going back to Trong Khanh is not actually the food, but interestingly enough, the housemade minced garlic chili oil in condiment jar that’s on each one of their tables. This garlic chili oil is immensely addictive. I like to put heaping amounts of it all over everything I order. What’s so delicious about this housemade garlic chili oil is that it is intensely rich and complex in flavour but not overly spicy. I have not found a store-bought version of garlic chili oil that even comes close in flavour. When I put this garlic chili oil in the sate beef soup, it helped to brighten the flavour and kick it up a notch. Every friend that I’ve introduced this garlic chili oil to has become addicted to it and have gone back to Trong Khanh just so they could have it.
1115 Centre St N