Short List: Pho ga

When winter’s colds and flus (or an over-indulgent weekend) knock me out, there is one silver bullet I can always count on: pho ga, or Vietnamese chicken noodle soup. At first glace, pho ga is a humble dish, a simple clear chicken broth presented with sides such as shredded chicken, rice noodles, cilantro, lime, Thai basil, and Thai or serrano chiles. But if you’ve ordered an exceptional bowl of pho ga, you’ll find that the broth has been infused with ginger, star anise, sweet roasted onion and other aromatics, adding layers of flavor that belie the dish’s standard menu description of “rice noodle soup with chicken.” You’ll feel better in just a few slurps.

3161 S. Grand Blvd., St. Louis, 314.664.6702

South Grand is home to a few Vietnamese restaurants, but the pho ga from Lemongrass is not to be missed. The broth stands out because it’s a bit sweeter than expected, an incredibly addictive twist. Although basil isn’t among the accompaniments, plenty of lime and cilantro are offered, which accent the sweetness of the soup. The shredded chicken practically melts as it hits the hot broth, and two minutes of breathing in the healing steam from this flavorful bowl before you ingest it will surely cure all that ails you.

Mai Lee
8396 Musick Memorial Drive, Brentwood, 314.645.2835

Mai Lee’s pho ga’s incredibly layered broth can stand on its own, with savory chicken, pronounced star anise and peppery ginger flavors. The generous portion of tender chicken that comes alongside it has a rich roasted flavor. This pho ga staved off what promised to be the first brutal cold of the season. Pho ga: 1, common cold: 0.

Little Saigon Café
10 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, 314.361.8881

Sitting in the window seat looking out upon snowy Euclid Avenue and slurping down a bowl of Little Saigon’s pho ga is by no means the worst way to spend your lunch hour. The crystal clear broth, which pairs quite nicely with a little sweet hoisin sauce, boasts a stronger onion taste than some other versions, and the chicken is juicy and flavorful. Oddly, no peppers are offered with the garnishes, but throw in enough sriacha and you’ll never miss them.