When I attended Mizzou, oh so many years ago, I met and made friends with many students from St. Louis. Visits to their homes taught me how the locals ate and I learned about some favorites that I had not previously experienced.
At the top of this list is the “St. Louis-style” fried rice from the many “chop suey” places found in the STL. It was a mandatory stop for kids heading home on the weekend and often they’d bring some back to school. Today, I still have friends living in mid-Missouri that ask someone heading to St. Louis to bring them some rice. And I stop from time to time and pick up some as well.
So recently, I saw a post on Facebook about a newer rice place in St. Louis. And it prompted me to query our VisitMO team. We often write about Missouri-based foods, but we’d never hit on these places. They weren’t aware of this local phenomenon and our email exchange led to this blog post.
I started by asking them about St. Paul sandwiches, which is egg foo yong on white bread with mayo, lettuce, pickles and onion and sometimes tomato. I Googled it and found it has an entry on Wikipedia. Who knew? I shared this with the team and they were astonished and dumbfounded. According to Wiki (and isn’t Wiki the last word on everything) it’s definitely a St. Louis thing, but can be found in Columbia, Jefferson City and Springfield. It doesn’t surprise me that with all the folks importing it from St. Louis, some people got wise and opened up local spots. A place I order from in Jefferson City asks if you want “St. Louis style.”
St. Paul sandwiches even got a mention on a National Public Radio segment last summer. The reviews were mixed, though they skewed favorably. No matter, locals love their chop suey spots.
After polling the group on St. Paul sandwiches, I threw in the fried rice. It’s pretty much what you’d get in a restaurant, but it’s made with brown colored rice instead of white or yellow. The thing is to get a side order of egg foo yong gravy to pour over it and add red pepper. At least that’s the way my friends introduced me to it. One friend now adds the gravy and sweet and sour sauce. A search for St. Louis-style fried rice didn’t reveal a Wiki entry, but did turn up a Chowhound discussion thread. People take their local foods very seriously.
Everybody had their favorite depending on where they lived. These joints are everywhere, but they don’t stand out. But once you start to look for them, you’ll see them. The food is tasty and very economical. The next time you’re in St. Louis, you really must try it. You’ll like it. I promise.