It’s a dark, misty day in Seattle and there’s only one type of food on your mind. Phô! A perfect bite of hot broth and soft noodle mixed with a plethora of toppings, from spicy jalapeño and sriracha to crunchy bean sprout and an acidic hint of lime. Every Seattleite knows that there’s nothing better than the Vietnamese version of chicken noodle soup. But the question is…where is the best place to go for this Seattle favorite? I nominate Dong Thap Noodles, a modest restaurant on 12th Ave in the heart of the International District.
I made my way to Dong Thap on a Monday morning, and was surprised to find it completely full at 11am. I glanced around the restaurant and observed a giant bowl of phô on just about every table. And when I say giant, I mean large enough to feed about 4-5 people easily. There was a sign on the door announcing that this was home to the world’s largest bowl of phô. World’s largest! I instantly regretted not bringing a larger party with me on my trip, as I knew that I was not capable of finishing this huge bowl on my own. I decided then and there that I would make my way back soon, a bit more prepared than I arrived this time. But for now I focused on my lunch menu for the day.
Because it was rainy and drizzly outside, par for the course in Seattle, I went the phô route. Most of the phô options contain beef, but because I do not eat red meat I decided on the chicken. My eating partner decided to go for the pork vermicelli bowl complete with four accompanying egg rolls. Together we splurged on fresh spring rolls with prawns and a homemade peanut sauce. The rolls were pretty in presentation and tantalizing in taste. Filled with crisp lettuce and carrots, the rice paper covered rolls were only complete when dipped in the sweet, syrupy peanut sauce.
Following our appetizer, we were ready for the real deal. I had decided to order the medium phô, but when it came out I realized that I had made a mistake: There was no way I could finish all the food placed in front of me. Still, my mouth watered as I added my garnish–a touch of sriracha for spice, lime for acidity and hoisin for a bit of sweet. Although there were many other options, I decided to keep it simple, and not complicate the flavors too much. I assembled my chopsticks and dove in. The broth is really what makes phô great, and this broth is no exception. There isa hefty amount of chicken, and the thick noodles are the perfect slurping consistency. Moving on to the vermicelli bowl, I was surprised at the sheer amount of food it contained–four full egg rolls, a sizable serving of marinated pork and just the right amount of veggies and noodles to go along with it all. The egg rolls have a satisfying crunch, and the thin-sliced, tangy pork contributeds its own pop of flavor. I poured the accompanying fish sauce over the entire bowl, and it added a necessary salty component. A new addition to the menu is Thai iced tea, and I couldn’t stop myself from ordering one of the creamy, black tea delights. I was surprised by the punch of flavor that came at the end of my sip, and the drink ended up being surprisingly addicting.
Dong Thap Noodles satisfied my craving for Vietnamese comfort food. My recommendation is that you come prepared, ready to dive into a bowl of phô bigger than your entire head. I know I will be coming back with a huge party, ready to feast. Even if you can’t rouse up enough people to tackle the superbowl of phô (which contains a whooping four pounds of meat and noodles in three liters of broth), the vermicelli bowls are delicious on their own and the spring rolls couldn’t be better. So whether you are looking for a supersized meal or just a simple bowl of house-made vermicelli noodles, Dong Thap is a delicious choice.