When I first began writing this post on comfort food – this time of the Asian/Indian/Persian variety – I decided to make a list. I thought, “I’ll list all the dishes I found comforting throughout my 365 Days of Dining, especially the ones that boosted my spirits in cold/rainy weather, then work from there.”
The problem was that once I started the list, I couldn’t stop. It kept growing and growing, and just when I thought I’d exhausted my options, I’d think of one (or eight) more. So, I concluded that in its broad entirety, Asian food brings me a heck of a lot of comfort. Granted, you won’t find me curled up on the couch with a big ol’ slice of durian cake, but we already knew that.
Seriously, the number comfort foods found within Chinese/Vietnamese/Japanese/Taiwanese/Korean/Malaysian cultures is astounding, but with great difficulty, I’ve managed to whittle my long list down to something reasonable. Two notes: first, you’re going to notice a major theme here of carbs and meat, and second, though this may be wildly controversial, neither ramen nor pho made the cut. Collective gasp! I like them both, but the fact is, there are other things I love more. So, if I had to pick just a few dishes to warm me up on a cold day in Richmond, they would be (in no particular order):
Mui Garden’s Curry with Beef Brisket
Looking back on my post about Mui Garden, this is how I described their curry: “The chunks of brisket were fork tender, and when all mashed together with the rice, it was pretty much my Ideal Bowl of Comfort Food.” Ha, there you have it.
Tsim Chai’s Congee with Chinese Donuts
I know that for people who grew up with it, congee is one of the ultimate comfort foods, and the dish that’s served up most often when someone’s sick. It was once described to me as the Asian version of chicken noodle soup, and that makes sense; both are easy on the stomach, warming, and quick to prepare. I like congee, but if you serve a plate of slightly-salty deep-fried dough alongside it, then I LOVE congee. Tsim Chai’s version of both is tops.
Sea Harbour’s Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaves
Like Mui Garden’s curry, I also declared this dish to be comfort food-approved in my original post: “These are wonderful, and are slowly but surely weening their way into the exclusive world of Lindsay Anderson Approved Comfort Foods.” (I’m a tough critic, apparently). There’s a kind of magic that comes from cooking rice and meat inside tightly-wrapped leaves; the flavours of the meat have nowhere to go but into the rice, and the starch from the rice glues it all together. Sea Harbour’s version of this dim sum/night market classic is great.
Neptune’s BBQ Pork Pastries
Hot, flaky, butter pastry + saucy, savoury/sweet bbq’d pork. That is all I have to say.
Tandoori Kona’s Goat Saag
Winter is for curry. FACT. Tandoori Kona was one of the first restaurants I went to in Richmond, and I was blown away by the rich complexity of this dish.
Daddy’s Delight Beef and Chicken Kebabs
The day I ate these, it was grey and miserable out. Pouring steadily, if I remember. But it took just one bite to bring the day back around. It was the magic combination of tender spiced beef and chicken, brightly-flavoured sumac, garlicky yogurt sauce, and rice that made me fall in love. Just thinking about this dish cheers me up.
So there they are, ten of my favourite comforting dishes in Richmond. I literally could have listed thirty, but we all have things to do, don’t we? Like seeking out a big dish of soup or curry or fried rice or dumplings or kebabs…..at least, I certainly will be!