It looks like St. Louis has been granted a “reprieve” from the oppressive heat wave that has had a grip on our fair city. But I’ll tell you what; be it 85 or 105 degrees outside, in the midst of this mid-summer heat, I can’t seem to stop thinking about giant bowls of noodles swimming in broth, specifically the pho tai I discovered in the wilds of Ballwin at Monsoon Vietnamese Bistro. It might seem like an odd combination - soup in hot weather - but from Jamaica to Korea, many believe that hot and spicy foods help to cool a body down when the mercury is rising, and I honestly think they are onto something.
At the same time, I think it is not just the soup I'm on the lookout for, but the flavors of fall that make the foundation of this dish, a broth rich with cloves and charred ginger, reminding me of the cooler weather that is hopefully around the corner, the vibrant colors of changing leaves, that first slice of apple pie … this is a soup that gives me something to look forward to.
There is something about digging into a bowl of pho - spoon in one hand, chopsticks in the other - that makes you forget about the heat outside, the work you've done and the tasks you've yet to tackle. It’s restorative in a way that a sugar-filled sports drink could never be. Each slurp from a submerged nest of thin noodles, each slice of rare beef, simmering in the depths of broth, star anise, lime juice and spicy sriracha is oddly enough to help cool you down - while raising your spirits, perhaps - because you see, pho is soul food - Vietnamese style - and just what is needed in these dog days of summer.
Monsoon Vietnamese Bistro, 14248 Manchester Road, # A, Ballwin, 636.256.8838, monsoon-stl.com
Tired of reheating last night's dinner for lunch? Every Monday, food writer Andrew Mark Veety guides you to some of the best midday meals in the St. Louis region, with great places to bring clients or enjoy an outing with your co-workers. Missed one of his columns? Check them out here.