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September 28, 2017
Super Pho King Challenge Bros.
Other than the saltine challenge, I’ve never participated in anything remotely competitive that entailed stuffing my face. And I must admit that I have no definitive reason as to why I decided to go to the Noodle King on 216 North Duke Street to partake in their Pho King Challenge. I mean, conquering this would’ve undoubtedly catapulted me to those fleeting fifteen minutes of fame. But would such a conquest work as a bulletized item on my resume (probably not)? Would it give me license to walk through town with a championship belt around my waist (that sounds cool, but no one would care)? Would my family respect me more than they already do (said level of respect would remain unchanged)?
My main reasoning wasn’t unlike that of my Lancaster Story Slam experience back in July. It wasn’t really for short-lived fame. I guess you could say that I just felt like doing it. That sudden interest was sparked as I scrolled through my social media feed and took notice of some photos of past Pho King Challengers on Noodle King’s Facebook wall.
And not unlike my time at Tellus360, I didn’t allow myself to be consumed by victory. I’m not a competitive eater. It surely would’ve been an insult to professional eaters everywhere for me to strut into such a setting with the mindset that I was going to win with zero preparation time.
“I’m just going to see how far I can go,” I said to my wife on our way to Noodle King. “I’ll stop as soon as I feel full.”
We were joined by our mutual friend, Matt, who also wanted to take a crack at the challenge. His approach was different from mine as he took the time to prepare for this. I felt confident that he would go further, even if he didn’t end up winning it outright.
Minh, the restaurant’s owner, brought out our piping hot 5-lb. behemoths one at a time. With both bowls set, he went over the rules: (1) there’s a 35-minute time limit, (2) absolutely no sharing, and (3) you must keep everything down (yes, vomiting upon finishing will automatically disqualify you). There was also a clarification: only the solids need to be consumed. The broth itself is optional.
We synced up our phones so that they were all running on a 35-minute timer. Minh wished us luck as the challenge officially commenced.
I picked off as much of the chicken as possible before focusing my attention on the stringy carbohydrates. My wife grabbed some napkins for the three of us. After I thanked her, she replied: “There’s no time for manners.”
The bowl was so packed with noodles that I didn’t notice the bed of sprouts underneath. It was at that point—the 20-minute mark—that I looked at my wife and conceded defeat. Matt soldiered on quite a bit longer before reaching his own concession.
One patron, upon noticing the massive bowl in front of me, said “That bowl is huge.” And another, not long after, looked in our direction and asked: “Do they all come in that size?”
I don’t think any of us were disappointed at the outcome. It was a lot to consume. Would I try it again? I’m not entirely sure. It’s not something that I’m endeavoring to master. But it’s totally worth trying.