Location: 1 Byng Avenue, North York
Sang-ji bao are basically like a traditional soup dumpling’s (a.k.a. xiao long bao) more rugged cousin. They’re pan fried, with a slightly thicker skin and a dark brown crust on the bottom. Soup dumplings are delicious, but if you want something a bit more hearty, sang-ji bao’s got your back.
And as you’d probably guess from the name, Sang-ji Fried Bao specializes in the stuff. I was pretty excited to try it.
We started with the scallion oil noodles, an absolutely delightful flavour-bomb of oily (but not overly greasy) noodles topped with peanuts and fried scallions. The crunchy peanuts offer a nice crunchy contrast to the chewy noodles, and the imposingly dark fried scallions are packed with flavour and immensely satisfying.
I liked this dish even more than the fried dumplings.
The sang-ji bao were certainly nothing to scoff at — they’re pleasingly porky and packed with scalding hot soup. The wrapper is a bit too thick, however, and the whole thing is a touch on the bland side.
Still, it’s got that satisfyingly crispy bottom, and the whole thing is tasty enough, even if it’s not the best version of these things that I’ve ever had.
Location: 3636 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
Running Pig is a no-frills take-out joint that serves various meat options and veggies on top of rice. It’s not the best thing you’ll ever eat, but it’s a hefty amount of meat and rice for $7.50; it’s hard to go wrong there.
I got the pork knuckle bento, which comes with a generous pile of pork knuckles (one is missing from my photo — I dug right in then realized I forgot to take a picture), a hard-boiled egg, tofu skin, and a variety of veggies on rice.
Pork knuckles can be mostly collagen without a whole lot of meat (particularly the way they’re cut here); if it’s not properly rendered, it’s going to be rubbery. And while these were mostly okay, they definitely could have braised for a little bit longer.
The various veggies and tofu were all tasty enough, and combined with the rice, it makes for a solid meal. Nothing here particularly stands out, but it’s cheap, quick, and satisfying. Sometimes that’s enough.
Location: 4350 Steeles Avenue East, Markham
I’ve had a lot of noodles over the course of my life, but — until now — I don’t think I’d ever tried potato noodles.
As the name implies, potato noodles are made with potato starch, which gives them a much, much chewier consistency than the norm.
Though I’ve heard good things about the cold noodles Potato Noodle Soup of Bai, I decided to go with the noodle soup — mostly because “noodle soup” is right there in the name.
I got the plain potato noodle soup, which comes with noodles, meatballs, fish balls, half an egg, and various odds and ends in a fiery broth.
The noodles are really interesting. There’s a Korean dish called jjolmyeon that features noodles that are so incredibly chewy you have to cut them with scissors before you start eating. These kind of reminded me of a thicker, slightly less chewy version of those.
The broth was a bit saltier than I’d like, but it was otherwise quite tasty, with a spicy kick and an almost creamy richness that you only get from a stock that’s been simmered for a long, long time.
The whole thing was fairly tasty, though with Sun’s Kitchen just a few steps away, I don’t know that I’d ever eat here again.
Location: 4040 Creditview Road, Mississauga
A good bowl of noodle soup is just the best. It’s the best. If you disagree, then I’m going to have to respectfully inform you that you’re wrong and that the way you’re living your life is wrong.
And Wonton Chai Noodle’s noodle soup game is strong. Not only that, but it’s delightfully affordable.
Seven bucks gets you a very large, steaming bowl of noodley, shrimpy goodness. The ultra-thin and ultra-firm noodles are really satisfying, and the simple-but-flavourful broth is imminently slurpable (especially when you add a heaping spoonful of the inferno-hot chili oil) — but it’s the wontons where this bowl really shines.
The filling of each wonton is crammed with whole pieces of perfectly cooked shrimp. Shrimp is easy to overcook and turn rubbery, but these were spot-on. And the flavour was just as good, with a rich seafoodiness that makes me want to order a whole pile of these and eat it like a bag of popcorn. The wrapper was ever-so-slightly mushy, but aside from that they were seriously tasty.
Location: 8362 Kennedy Road, Unionville
Big Beef Bowl is another place that serves fresh, chewy noodles, which means I’m pretty much going to love it by default. I’m very easy to please when it comes to a big bowl of delicious noodles.
I got the braised beef brisket noodles, which comes with your choice from six types of noodles: round or flat, with three thicknesses each. I got the round noodles in a medium thickness. And they were great — they might have been ever-so-slightly too soft, but they were otherwise hearty and chewy and satisfying.
The soup itself wasn’t anything too special, but it got the job done. It was a bit spicy by default, but was improved immeasurably by a few hearty spoonfuls of the chili oil they’ve got on the table. You always have to be careful with that particular condiment, because depending on the place, its spiciness ranges from a moderate tingle to volcano hot. The one at Big Beef Bowl isn’t particularly spicy, but it has a satisfying toasty flavour that really improves the soup.
There were also several chunks of fatty, immensely tender beef brisket. I could have eaten a whole pile of these.