By Huynh Thanh Lan
Winter has arrived, and this has got to be one of the most extreme winters I have ever experienced in Korea. Coming from a tropical country like Vietnam, I cannot help but occasionally feel this urge to indulge myself in the warm broth of pho (Vietnamese rice noodles) to get away from the chilliness. Despite the fact that there are so many Vietnamese restaurants established across Jeonju, it is hard to come across one that serves the truly authentic flavor of Vietnamese cuisine without adjusting it considerably to the taste of Korean customers. Fortunately, I managed to discover a restaurant which is able to do so, and it has effortlessly become one of my favorite spots.
The restaurant is called Pho Ha Noi, and it is located in Sinsigaji. From Mangosix, just cross the road then go straight. You can easily spot it on the second floor of the building in front of the parking lot, with its bright yellow exterior and a cute cartoon girl in our traditional dress – aodai. Upon entering Pho Ha Noi, you may notice that it is spacious with simplistic oriental decorations, which gives it a welcoming atmosphere. Paintings of typical sceneries throughout Vietnam are hung on the walls, and you can entertain yourself with interesting patterns of lotus flowers or dragonflies on the tableware while waiting for your food.
On that day, I came here with two friends of mine. We decided to order a set of three main dishes and one portion of deep fried spring rolls. Let’s just say we greatly enjoyed every minute until the very end. I had the spicy rice noodles with a combination of seafood and beef, while my friends had the typical pho and sticky rice with broiled chicken respectively. The broth was amazing owing to the seasoning bringing out the savory flavor. Not too salty, not too plain, everything was in perfect moderation. Combined with a bit of kick from the chili pepper, the dish spreads warmth all over your body with each slurp.
Nevertheless, we had to agree that the ace of this restaurant is, surprisingly, the sticky rice with chicken. Served with salad and pickled radish, it was like attending a concert of taste: from the beginning, the sourness of vinegar slowly built up your appetite; then came the climax with the greasy yet tender sensation of the meat and a touch of sweetness; and lastly, a spoon of rich sticky rice gave it a complete ending. After finishing the meal, we had jasmine tea to cleanse our palate and chatted for awhile before leaving the place.
Overall, dining at Pho Ha Noi was a remarkably pleasant experience for me: good food, friendly staff, beautifully decorated interior. I could not ask for more even if I wished to do so. If you would like to find out how authentic Vietnamese food is like, please feel free to make a trip to the salient restaurant in the bustling area of Sinsigaji, and order a hot bowl of pho or any dishes you can find in the menu. I hope you will be able to enjoy it as much as I did, and keep coming back not only for the food, but also for the atmosphere that welcomes you anytime.