July 31, 2022

Rice to Meet You Cantonese Restaurant- A Michael Shum Discovery

 Michael writes:

“ The bustling crowd is chatting lively in my native tongue of Cantonese, the aroma of familiar food permeates the air, this place makes me feel like I've returned to one of my childhood places.

The Ginseng Chicken Soup 花旗参炖竹丝鸡汤 makes its grand entrance, it comes with the Special Combo Clay Pot Rice 双拼煲仔饭 that we ordered. The slight bitterness of the herbal root tickles my tongue, reminded me of homemade Soup that takes time and patience. The proper Dark-skinned Chicken is not spared to make this nutritious soup, believed by my culture to nourish the body, and in this case, warm my soul too.

The sizable bowl of Spicy Beef Brisket Noodle 牛腩汤面 comes out next. In my constant search for the ideal bowl of Beef Noodle Soup, I have missed digging into my own roots, shame on me. The waitress helped us pick the right broth, this one has just the right amount of spiciness. The noodles are so smooth and slurpable, I wonder what magic this is. Needless to say, the Beef Briskets are "forking tender", nice to bite on, yet fall apart easily, this is mainly due to the skill of an experienced Chef. The Bok Choy and Pickled Mustard Greens are like little jewel trinkets on this fantastic bowl of high-quality noodle soup at a super value. 

I dare to nominate their Popcorn Chicken 盐酥鸡 as the best version of this dish. Fried with clean oil and in precise crispiness and texture, these Chinese-style Karaage deliver to my mouth the taste of saltiness, pepperiness, sweetness, to summarize in one word, Umami. I challenge anyone to not order this again upon the next visit. 

The name of the restaurant is Rice to Meet You 煲来饱去, their plat de résistance is Clay Pot Rice 煲仔饭 with a wide range of selection.  It's not the type I had back in Asia, where actually Clay Pots with burnt bottoms, cooked in Charcoal burning stoves, and I would be a complete dick to expect that at a restaurant in a shopping strip within the city limit. With that disclaimer out of the way, let's get down to business. 

You must read and follow the instruction conveniently stationed at every table to fully enjoy the Clay Pot Rice. Once the sizzling pot is put down, the squeezable red bottle of special soy sauce should be ready to be deployed. Drench the hot steaming rice generously, and I do mean, generously, with this low sodium soy sauce, and quickly give it a mix. Stop now and sit back, let the scorching surface of the Clay Pot, the Rice that has been infused with flavors, and all the ingredients and proteins work their magic to please your mouth in a few minutes. If the God of Clay Pot favors you, you'll be blessed later for your patience, with the reward of crispy rice stuck to the pot called Fan Jiao 饭焦. Be polite and share those treasures with the table, don't kung fu each other for them.

The choice of protein is easy, at least for me, I must have the Cantonese Cured Pork Belly that also comes with Chinese Lap Cheong 腊肠, it's blasphemy to not have it in a traditional Bo Zai Fan. These Cured Meats diffuse all their aged flavors, juices, and fat into the White Rice, making every bite an enjoyable exploration of complex flavors. We pick Mushroom Chicken 香菇滑鸡 as the 2nd choice of this Combo Clay Pot Rice. The Chicken has a silky smooth texture and the earthiness of the Chinese Mushroom enhances the whole clay pot of rice. 

I don't really like to type this much, but the love of my Cantonese heritage compels me to share this joy I have today at lunch. Cantonese food is more subtle in flavors, we like to have ingredients as natural seasoning instead of heavy salt or spices. I appreciate this type of cooking because I feel I need to participate in detecting all the delightful nuances in the food instead of overwhelming seasoning that forces me to taste. For the time my wife and I spend enjoying this Cantonese-style lunch, I feel like I am back in my childhood home.

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