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Crazy for pho

The 6 best places for pho in Seoul.

Seoul has come a long way from those dismal days of boring pho, with an outcropping of smaller local pho eateries. Here are some of our favorites

Emoi

Every once in a while a pho place comes up with a flavor so different that it makes you stop and take pause. Emoi is that kind of place. Opened only a few months ago, Emoi serves Hanoi-style pho in downtown Jongno. Walking in you notice that the style of decor is in between a dive noodle bar and a larger chain—it's quite comfortable. The pho makes a nice visual impact— slices of beef in the middle with shredded cilantro all around, so much so that you don't see the broth, which is also almost clear. But after that first taste, you know something very right was done. The broth is light, full of flavor and well seasoned, quite unlike anything else available in Seoul. Two types of pho are served: the regular and the premium. The meat in the premium pho is cooked beforehand and then added to the broth, giving it a completely different flavor from the regular. The fried spring rolls here, which are perfectly formed and fried crisp, are also absolutely addictive. Pro tip? There are refills on both noodles and broth, so make sure to go on an empty stomach. By James Yu

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Jongno-gu

Pham Thi Chinh

Pham Thi Chinh, a cleaner, brighter version of a divey noodle joint, is located in Wangshimni. Upon first glance, the dark broth is instantly noticeable. Droplets of grease surrounding the sliced beef give the impression that the beef was cooked beforehand and then added to the soup. A conversation with the very pleasant owner revealed that the beef-based broth is lovingly prepared every morning and then left to simmer for hours in anticipation of the lunch rush. Despite the color, the flavor of the broth is quite light and the beef flavor rather pronounced. Cilantro is readily available, but not brought to you with the soup, so be sure to ask, whereupon you will be given as much as you want. The sprouts are also very fresh adding a nice healthy crunchiness to the bowl of noodles. Although Sriracha is provided, I would caution against adding too much additional flavoring as it can overpower the subtle flavors of the broth. It’s a nice pho for a nice price. By James Yu

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Seongdong-gu

Pho for You

One of the newest additions to the pho scene, Pho for You brings San Francisco-style pho to Itaewon. The broth here, as with all the places reviewed, is made from scratch and left to simmer for hours, resulting in a rich dark color. This is definitely one of the better bowls of pho around, as not much needs to be added since the flavor is already so pronounced. If spicy is your thing, fresh chilies and Sriracha are available, as are four other varieties of pho that start at 8,000 for the regular and go up to 12,000 for the meat combination pho. A range of other appetizers, noodle and rice dishes are also available. The meats used are also of an excellent quality as they cook very well in the broth without becoming too tough or chewy. Looking forward, Pho for You plans to add a variety of new dishes to their menu. A definite blessing to have in Itaewon, Time Out Seoul can hardly wait to eat here again. By James Yu

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Itaewon
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