Three years ago, The Great Pho King Food Truck had only just gotten started. And at the time, the truck was a two-man affair, brought to the Phoenix streets by owner Mike Baum and chef Eddie Pham. The food was Vietnamese with French flair — in other words, pretty traditional Viet-fusion stuff — served alongside a few, somewhat confusing, grilled cheese sandwiches.
Nowadays things have changed. The truck's cheeky name remains, but only Baum is still around from the original duo. He says the truck has continually changed since three years ago and predicts it will continue to change in the future.
"We were gonna do health food initially," Baum says. But that idea fell by the wayside in favor of Vietnamese fusion, which has since trended more and more toward the fusion side of things as time has passed.
Baum says Mexican flavors have become favorite complements to traditional Vietnamese fare.
"The flavor palates really go well together," he says.
Gone are the spring rolls and Vietnamese crêpes from the original menu, replaced by items such as a Banh Mi burrito, a tortilla stuffed with pickled veggies, chicken, jalapeños, Japanese mayo, rice, and cheese. And if that isn't "fused" enough for you, there's also an Asian Invasion Cheese Steak, which is exactly what it sounds like: sliced beef and veggies sautéed in an Asian sauce, covered in cheese, and stuffed between two halves of a French roll.
Baum offers these transcultural creations alongside a beef and a chicken pho, which he says he's made a point to keep traditional, as well as chicken and veggie pot stickers and several stir fried dishes that take inspiration from other Asian cuisines.
And if you're wary of the idea of fusion cuisine, rest assured the whole menu is actually pretty good. The beef pho won't drop any jaws but makes an excellent choice if you're looking for pho on the go. All the elements of a bowl of good pho — the spicy, herbaceous broth, thinly sliced meat, and ample Asian vegetables — are present and impressive. Though we'll admit, soup is perhaps not the easiest item to eat while mobile.
Both the banh mi burrito and the Burrito Phorrito (steak, pickled veggies, sriracha mayo, rice, and cheese) are well executed, albeit lacking subtlety. And the chicken and veggie stir fry, featuring jasmine rice, stir fry sauce, bok choy, chicken breast, and a variety of other vegetables, is a little thematically inconsistent with the rest of the options at Pho King, but, regardless, pretty damn good.
Next, like many other food truck owners, Baum wants to open a restaurant. He's a staunch advocate of the flavors, dynamism, and health benefits of the Vietnamese kitchen and thinks these elements would make for a successful restaurant in combination with his talent for fusion food. For a guy with no formal cooking background whose previous business was a solar company, we think he might be right.