Location: 550 Highway 7, Richmond Hill
Sometimes, Asian desserts can be a bit of an acquired taste. With their emphasis on ingredients you don’t necessarily associate with sweets (like beans or tofu), unusual spices, and a very restrained level of sweetness, they can seem a bit odd if you’re not used to them.
If you are used to them, however? They’re delicious.
Sweet Turtle Desserts in the Times Square plaza in Richmond Hill is an absolute cornucopia of various Chinese puddings and sweet drinks (there are easily over a hundred items on the menu). I ordered the soya bean jelly with sesame, which is a creamy tofu-based pudding topped with a black sesame sauce.
The tofu itself is completely unsweetened, with a luxuriously silky texture but very little flavour. It doesn’t seem like much, but that silkiness is surprisingly addictive.
The black sesame topping suits it very well, with a nice hit of sesame and just enough sweetness to keep things interesting. It’s quite good.
Location: 1248 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
I’ve always liked Vietnamese food, but I feel like I’ve spent the majority of my life seriously underrating it. I’ve recently discovered that Vietnamese cuisine can be downright magical, with a vibrancy and depth of flavour that’s irresistible.
And there’s so much more to it than the obvious choices like pho and banh mi (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those dishes).
Case in point: the bun rieu at I Love Pho 2, a zingy noodle soup made with a tomato- and crab-based broth that’s absolutely crammed with stuff: sliced beef, sliced pork, ground pork, tomato, blood cake, fried tofu, fried onions, fresh herbs, and a whole plate’s worth of crunchy veggies, not to mention the heaping portion of soft, chewy rice noodles.
It’s amazingly good. There’s a really delightful variety of flavours and textures — sometimes, the meat in a soup like this can taste off or be a little tough, but everything here was great.
It’s the broth, however, that makes this dish so special. It has a really rich seafood/crab flavour, with a nice zinginess from the tomato and a mild sweetness that rounds things out. It was incredibly satisfying.
It was also an amazing value — I got the medium size, which cost about ten bucks and came with an almost comically oversized bowl that was filled to the brim and absolutely crammed with noodles and various meats.
Location: 5130 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Ah, Chowhound. As a resource for discovering hidden gems, it is second-to-none. Case in point: Chodang Soon Tofu.
The place specializes in fiery red soups that come to the table in a piping hot stone bowl; it’s a roiling inferno of a soup that is pretty much guaranteed to burn your tongue. As I’ve had the soup here a couple of times (and it is quite tasty, despite the pain), I decided to get something different. I went with the Tofu Kimchi, which is a bit more expensive than the other items on the menu at $12.98 (all the soups are eight bucks).
Korean food is traditionally served with a variety of side dishes — banchan, in Korean — and they definitely don’t skimp on that here. Before the main course, we received soft, fresh tofu with a soy-sauce based dipping sauce, two different types of kimchi, bean sprouts, and a breaded, fried fish. All tasty stuff, and all free with the meal, so it’s a pretty great value.
And as it turns out, the Tofu Kimchi was more expensive because it is clearly meant to be shared. I’m not sure if the picture adequately conveys the scale of this dish, but it was massive. I got about halfway through and had to throw in the towel.
It’s a fairly simple dish; stir-fried kimchi with thin strips of pork belly and green onions, surrounded by soft, creamy tofu. It seemed a bit simple when I first started eating it, but the spicy kimchi and pork mixed with the creamy tofu turned out to be a suprisingly addictive combo.