Review: Legit Pho in Seoul at Pho Little Vietnam in Wangsimni (왕십리 베트남 쌀국수집)

All right, all you true pho lovers in Seoul who've been fed up with the bland, Koreanized, and sometimes downright terrible phos from all the Pho Hanois and Pho Bays, get ready cuz I'm about to rock you the pho out. This post is all about one of the best bowls of pho you can get in Seoul.

Before my visit to this place, I used to settle for Le Saigon in Itaewon, especially the one in Noksapyeong since it's so close to my house. But ever since they changed owners long ago, the taste has gone downhill and now even that joint's pho isn't all that much better than the plethora of pho chains all around Seoul.

I heard whispers of this joint I'm introducing long ago but it was almost at a mythological/legendary status... like every so often when there's a rumor going around that In-N-Out has opened up/plans to open up somewhere in Seoul. But THEN, I met those who had been saved. The ones who had seen and experienced the savior pho for his or herself and were testifying of its miracles. And just like that, I knew I had to seek this place out for myself. And friends, I have seen the light. *Cue the hallelujah chorus*

First thing first (I'm the realest), let me preface that this place is, in no way, the best pho ever. As a west coaster, I know there's four things you don't discuss with friends lest you want to destroy your friendship and that's politics, sex, religion, and where you can get the best bowl of pho. This joint, were it in the States, would be nowhere near the top of that latter category's list.

But here in Seoul, I say to Pho Little Vietnam- "Take my money! Just take it!"




Pho Little Vietnam is located a ways off near Wangsimni and in a little residential office building. It literally is inside some random residential office building that you would never suspect would hold such a jewel inside. It's so sneaky there aren't even signs outside except for a little blurb mentioned on the directory near the building's parking entrance. It's almost as if the joint doesn't want you to know it's there.

It's a bit complicated to find it but it's on the first floor towards the back, past the supermarket and such. You'll know it's the right place because it's located within a mini food court that has a kalguksu place, jjajangmyeong place, etc. Just follow the waft of cilantro and pho broth and find yourself where you need to be.


The joint is a small open kitchen run by a Vietnamese lady and her family. I came on a Sunday afternoon and the lady was running the entire place by herself. The menu has your standard Viet goods:


Even the menu reminds me of the Vietnamese joints from home... ㅜ_ㅜ


If I could, I would have ordered everything off the menu to try. But since God cruelly made us with only one stomach, I went with the pho bo. I also placed an order of gỏi cuốn (spring rolls) too but, alas, they had run out of ingredients for the spring rolls. Initially I was rather flabbergasted- a Vietnamese restaurant running out of ingredients for spring rolls? But seeing as how it's not really an official restaurant and that I was hitting the place up on a Sunday evening when the lady could have just as well chosen to take the day off (two or three of the other eateries in the food court were closed entirely that day), I understood from her point why she probably didn't want to go bananas in buying up ingredients. Instead, I went with an order for the cha gio (fried rolls).

Probably owing to the fact the friendly lady was running the joint by herself on my visit, the food took some time to come out. It's an open kitchen, as I said, so you can watch her do her work and- perhaps because she knows she serves some legit Viet food to the Viet food-starved population of Seoul- she meticulously took time with her prep work. It's all the more torturous because the smell wafts from the kitchen and lingers, making you even more ravenous.

Finally, I think a good 10 minutes later, the pho arrived at our table.The rich, dark golden hues of the broth came flecked with chopped green onion, sliced onions, and just a pinch of pepper.


Then came the mung bean sprouts, red pepper slices (not the Korean kind), and fresh sprigs of cilantro. I immediately tossed in a mixture of all three (going heavy handed on the cilantro) to the hot broth and let it all combine.



By now, I was salivating so I immediately dunked in my spoon and took a taste of the broth and...

yes.

YES.


Rich, beefy flavors, aromatic herbs and spices... this was the flavor I had sought after so much in Korea. I think the lady running the place knew I was having a euphoric moment too because when my eyes met hers for a moment she smiled and winked. I might have even ran to her, knelt, and kissed her hand but my physical self had no intention to leave that bowl of pho anytime soon.

Now I should make clear again that it's by no means the best pho I've ever had as the pho here has its minor flaws- such as the broth being a tad bit on the sweeter side. But when it comes to what I've had presented to me as "pho" for so many years in Korea, Pho Little Vietnam is miles above the rest in Seoul. In addition to the authentic tastes, the serving was abundant and they don't skimp on the meat so you don't have to worry about walking away hungry. Plus, there's none of that weird pickled onion ish or dan moo ji (pickled yellow daikon) the Korean pho joints always offer. Here, the real onion slices are in the broth for a richer flavor.


But the absolute crazy thing about the pho is that it's only 7,000 won for a bowl. Yes, you read that correct. Seven-thousand won... I've seen pho joints in Seoul selling their nasty ish for 12,000 won so you can imagine how mind boggled I was. Incredibly, even other menu items such as the com suon (broken rice and grilled pork chop) is also 7,000 won. WHAT.

Because the lady was backed up with orders, the cha gio took some time to come out and when I was nearly finished with my pho (though, I did inhale the pho). Nevertheless, the cha gio came piping hot from the fryer and with the simple fish sauce on the side for dipping. Of course I burned my mouth a bit from my impatience in letting the guys cool a bit and, call me a sadist if you will, but the first bite was worth the bit of pain. The rolls were just crispy at first bite which then gave way to a nice chew inside while the peppery filling of ground meat, shredded carrot, noodles, and other spices was just so damn tasty. Even though I was pretty full by this time from the pho, I had no problem tearing through these hot and addictive rolls and I'm salivating at its memory as I'm writing this. I believe the cha gio was 5,000 won.



On a whim, I also decided to get a Vietnamese coffee (4,000 won). This one was rather odd and the only letdown of my meal here. It was sweet but instead of tasting like condensed milk, it had a strange ovaltine-y taste to it. The coffee in it wasn't very strong or good either. Skip the iced coffee here.


Walking back out of the place after paying, I left feeling happy with the good food in my belly and even happier at how easy the meal went on my wallet. The friendly lady kindly asked us to come back again soon and I knew I would be coming back soon at some point- after all, I didn't get my spring rolls this time so I knew I had to come back.

The greatest deterrence about the place is that it's a ways off in Wangsimni which isn't a neighborhood I frequent often... not to mention car traffic is crummy in the area (especially on weekends). But at its prices, serving size, and authentic great food, there's no denying that there's plenty of merits about Pho Little Vietnam that entices you to pay it a visit. So look, just do yourself a favor and go.

Interestingly, there's apparently 1 or 2 other Vietnamese joints in this same Wangsimni area that's run by real Viets too. In fact, just around the corner from the building housing Pho Little Vietnam is another famed joint called Narang Ssalguksu (Nhatrang) which offers similar menu options at similar prices and wins raves from pho lovers. That place is high on my priority list of places to try so I'll hold off on awarding the "best pho in Seoul" distinction for now until I go but as it stands currently, there's no doubt Pho Little Vietnam is strongly in contention for being the best Vietnamese restaurant in Seoul.

Ratings: 
3.5 out of 4 stars
Big portions, great prices, and authentic,homely food... this is easily one of the best spots in Seoul to get your Vietnamese food fix. The Vietnamese lady running Pho Little Vietnam with her family is super friendly and makes you genuinely feel like you're getting a home cooked meal from her. As it is a family business and not a chain, service can get slow and the menu options may depend on what ingredients haven't run out but if you can overlook those factors as well as the fact it's in Wangsimni, I can't recommend this place enough. Do skip on the Vietnamese iced coffee though...

Address: 
서울시 성동구 도선동 69번지 쉐르빌 상가 165호
69, 165 Ho, (Samsung Chereville building) Doseon-dong, Seongdong-gu, Seoul



Come out of exit 2 of Wangsimni station and walk straight for about 200 meters until you see an alley on the left by an S-Oil gas station. Enter that alley and walk about 100 meters until you see the Chereville residential building on your right. Pho Little Vietnam is located in the building's first floor food court, towards the back.

Telephone: 
010-9033-2670

Parking: 
Available in the building

Alcohol: 
Vietnamese beer available

Tip: 
Pho Little Vietnam is closed on Mondays.

There's also an Asian market in the same building run by a SE Asian family which sells imported goods from the SE Asia region. Great way to pick up ingredients and goods for a cheap price.

Comments

  1. Why wasn't Thail basil included in the pho?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Many thanks for your great report with nice shots! All the very best, Trang from Paris

    ReplyDelete
  3. important question: was lime served with the pho?

    I'm newish to Seoul and have yet to find a pho joint serving limes.

    true story: I once had pho at a chain restaurant just outside of Seoul that didn't even serve cilantro...wha?

    Grace

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I went they didn't have lime. But I haven't been here in a long while.

      However, a recent place I visited DID serve lime and is attracting a lot of buzz. It's called Pho Chi Minh in Gwanghwamun https://www.facebook.com/phochiminhkorea/?fref=ts

      You can read a little more in-depth about it from my IG post https://www.instagram.com/p/BIbauspA82p/. Full review will come later... hopefully soon haha.

      Delete
    2. Sweet!Thanks for the rec~! Going to check out the posts and the restaurant!
      Grace

      Delete
    3. You know Best pho in korea 'pho16'? Pho16 is alleyway between Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun a and Jogyesa Temple.When I was there I served Vietnamese noodle soup and BBQ Pork with steamed bean sprouts,cilantro,and fresh lime on the side. Just try.Vietnamese traditional noodle soup! pho!

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  4. This is awesome, i really crave for real Vietnamese foods in Seoul, been to some restaurant but they are just, you know, not real. Will go there and tell you how it is these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you have the chance to go there and try the food, Vy Nguyen Mach Tuong? :)

      Delete

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