An obvious truth - water is wet. Obvious truth number two - I fucking love rice. I have a few favorite go-tos after a night of partying. There are the usual and expected standbys, such as pizza, poutine and street meat. However, there is one that reigns supreme - Chinese food. I, like so many others, have undoubtedly tripped, swayed and staggered my way into an all night Chinese eatery post-party. They are safe havens after a night of debauchery. No matter what time or, how booze infused I am, a Chinese restaurant is open to serve me (and every other drunkard) piles of steaming, cornstarch varnished, soul-satisfying delectables. Rice is a cotton ball for your liquor-filled gut. It has the ability to save you from a desperate and shameful night of toilet bowl clutching, projectile vomit exorcism. Or, not.
But, as a lifelong rice eater, I would like to present fact number three, not all rice is created equal. I hate garbage white rice. Even worse, that shit that comes in a box with the bald guy on it. Dafuq?! That’s not rice. THAT’S NOT RICE. Rice, growing up in my household, came in giant bags that took two people to load onto the bottom of the cart at Knob Hill Farms. Then you filled the two black boxes on that top of your cart with all the meats, veggies and legumes that were inevitably be served atop all that rice.
Rice can save lives. Rice is goddamn delicious in all of its iterations. Rice is often among my first thoughts when contemplating what I want to eat. It is my soul food, my comfort food. Some people desire mac and cheese, fried chicken or burgers. Not me. Nuh uh. Those food items do not speak to me the way rice does. So, when I need carb loading/loving rice, there are some places in Toronto that are truly exceptional and where rice is the show.
In no particular order some of my favourite rice in the city:
Jackpot Chicken - Schmaltzy Rice
318 Spadina Avenue (Spadina Ave/Dundas St W)
The first time I ate the rice at Jackpot chicken I stopped talking, sat in silence and marvelled at the rice. I think I repeated *at least* a dozen times while I was eating, how good the rice was. I was rice-notized. So. Damn. Good. What makes this rice delicious, no doubt, is the schmaltz and the fragrant pandan leaves. It is damn fine rice. The schmaltz adds body and rich savoury flavour which pairs perfectly poached haianese-style chicken. Thank you Jackpot for your contribution to my #ricelife.
Baro - OG Duck Chaufa
485 King St W (King St W/Spadina Ave)
I thought I KNEW the best fried rice until I ate THIS fried rice. This fried rice changed everything. I sat eating this fried rice simultaneously wanting to eat ALL of it in one sitting, but also wanting to hoard it for future me for fried rice snacks. I couldn’t get enough of this rice. I would honestly go to Baro just to just eat this rice. This fried rice is a concoction of duck confit, edamame, egg, some kind of voodoo magic called papi kung fu, chili and tobiko. It’s savoury, slightly sweet, chewy, umami and the rice is cooked perfectly. The tobiko lends textural contrast with little *pops* as you chew. Duck confit in fried rice, genius. Fucking genius.
Miss Korea - Rice Cakes
687 Yonge Street (Yonge St/Charles St E)
Toronto, Ontario, ON M4Y 2B2
Thick, chewy rice cakes in a luscious, spicy gochujang sauce. The spice level is perfect - enough heat to prickle your tongue and make your nose run. The humble rice cakes are filling and absorbent. If you have not sunk your teeth into these fiery, fat, chewy pillows, you must. Chewy rice cakes + spicy chili + beer = emoji heart eyes X 1000. They are the most perfect drinking food.
Kiin - Rice Salad
326 Adelaide St W (Adelaide St W/E Peter St Adelaide)
If you have not eaten here yet, you really should. The food is not just good, it’s stunningly gorgeous and incredibly satisfying. Every morsel is a dazzling work of art. Chef Nuit brings exceptional talent and beauty to her creations. The Rice Salad here is an exquisite and colourful composition of all vegan ingredients, including fragrant lemongrass, punchy pomelo, lingering heat from chillies and textual contrast from peanuts, toasted coconut and cucumber. You need to eat this shit, pronto.
Congee Queen - Corn and Taro Congee
Various locations around the GTA
When I need some extra deep lovin’, I head to Congee Queen. It is thick, rich and satisfying bowls of warmth. As an avid rice lover, this form of porridge-y rice is perhaps, not for everyone. But then, perhaps, you are not for me. If you can’t get on board with a rice soup that is creamy, gorgeously flavoured with ginger, sesame and scallions and perhaps, a heap of chilli oil, then you got #problems. They delicate flavours of this soup makes it a favorite for me when I’m sick or when it’s cold, or when I just need some extra TLC. I often find myself drawn to the veggie options, especially the Taro and Corn version. It is thick, white, warm liquid that just glides down your throat… I’ll leave that riiiiight there.