Of Chinese Buns & Rice Pudding 

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reading about Gorgonzola and pear ice cream, I was a little downcast because I like non-traditional flavours but I hate ice cream. Vancouver has plenty of gelato places catering to those who like non-chocolate-vanilla-strawberry ice cream, but nothing for the likes of me.

What I'd like is a store that serves up the usual stuff then has five hundred flavours of mixing and matching that's the real backbone.

I'm thinking a takoyaki shop that has mentaiko-stuffed takoyaki (octopus balls with spicy roe). Or a croquette cafe that lists on brie korokke on their menu. Or a Transylvanian creperie with dill pancakes. Or a door-to-door peddler of shiokara-umeboshi-shiso-sea urchin yumminess (in other words, a dish of something mixing the mushy goodness of sea urchin innards with squid viscera, pickled plums and perilla leaves).

Nothing of that level of fusion weirdness, sadly, exists in Vancouver. Unless it comes in ice cream form.

Japan and Taiwan fulfilled many of my food fantasies. From Japan, the love of the shiso leaf was the perfect accompaniment to all dishes. In Taiwan, having bought a mystery sandwich in the dark, I realized that tuna and peanut butter are excellent sandwich buddies - we're talking Taiwanese peanut butter, stuff that is to American peanut butter as mimolette is to pimiento cheese.

Trapped on the continent, there are two stops to whet an appetite for the daring.

The first is Wow Bao in Chicago's Water Tower Place. Run by white people, with an Asian frontline staff, every time I am in Chicago I sneak up the Magnificent Mile every day to sample the buns. Sometimes I remember my lovely Chicago hosts and pick up a box of the frozen bao for them.

Photo Courtesy: Gino888

The scrumptious flavours include the ever-present Kung Pao Cashew Chicken bun (I suspect the "cashew" part of its name wasn't there before), the Thai Curry Chicken bun, the more authentic BBQ Pork bun, the Spicy Mongolian Beef bun, and the Green Vegetable bun, more delightful than its name would otherwise suggest. The online menu also lists the Teriyaki Chicken bun, which must be new since my last trip to Chicago.

Photo Courtesy: Stacey Cookie

With no franchise information on their parent site, I am more than a little disheartened that I must continue paying the airfare to Chicago if I want to sample my dastardly Kung Pao Chicken bun.

Then there is New York's Rice to Riches. Screw raisins, this rice pudding store takes the already-perfect dessert to beyond any heaven with 72 virgins!

As a rice pudding chef (I taught rice pudding class when I was a high school teacher), I drool over the flavours on today's menu:
  • Secret Life of Pumpkin
  • Coconut Coma
  • Forbidden Apple
  • "Category 5" Caramel
  • Hzelnut Chocolate Bear Hug
  • Gingerbread Joy Ride
  • The Corner of Cookies and Cream
  • and the greater-then-great Man-Made Mascarpone with Cherries

Annoyingly enough, there are no plans yet for franchising. Investing, yes, they want your money, but a load of good it'll do me if I have to fly across three time zones to indulge. Rice to Riches does, however, ship their puddings overnight to anywhere in the US. At $49 USD, this expensive rice pudding does beat the frequent trip to New York.

Photos Courtesy: Mussels

Update: This post inspired Matt to present me tonight with a half-litre each of Gorgonzola-pear gelato and basil-Pernod gelato.


I remember hearing about that rice pudding shop when they were new, now that you mention it.

Now that I live in New York, maybe I'll stop by and give them a try.

For that matter, now that I live in New York, you should look me up next time you fly in for your pudding fix. :)
You moved to NY? When?! Yay!

I don't know when I'll be there again, but hopefuly will make another trip in the next two years! I miss NY!

Wait, now you've got to eat some of that mascarpone rice pudding for me!
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