“We’ve been here for a very long time… so of course we want to be close to home. Sorry I don’t have many answers for you at the moment but hope you enjoyed the meal.” *goes back attending to customers* -General Manager Chi
With a good majority of places we visit, many times business owners or general restaurant staff are sort of taken aback with our impromptu approach on interviewing. Extracting thorough information can be a daunting task and it’s somewhat similar to the problems a chef would have in preparation of extracting the right flavor combinations in a dish. During my second day in Canada, I wasn’t really familiar with the landscape until after crossing the U.S./Canadian Niagara border.
In any event, I wanted to expand my family’s knowledge of the area they lived in for more than a decade. Not really venturing out, besides the comforts of their suburb or workplace, with some research and logistics planning we managed to tackle a a great amount of businesses within the short time I resided there. One of the ideal spots came to me when I wanted to compare a local’s version of a Chinese delicacy called jook aka congee. After searching on the internet, I managed to stumbled onto this little hidden gem Chi’s Congee & Noodle House. We left my uncle’s place and traveled a good 20 minutes until we finally reached our destination.
Like many Asian plazas dispersed around the area (as well as within Southern California’s 626), the tiny eatery is barely noticeable on the main road so you have to circle around the lot until you find a place to park. Going inside, you see the place is tiny, humble and full of activity, (This place accepts ONLY CASH so be sure to have a stack of Canadian Dollars on hand to settle the bill after the meal). One waitress dropped the menu and while all of us were reading the options my uncle lamented, “I still can’t believe, I’ve lived here for nearly a decade and had no clue places like these existed.” Now unlike many other issues, as much as I wanted to splurge and try a good sampling of the menu (we ate at six other establishments that day), I had to save room but needed to highlight what they were really known for which was the congee…
Our second waitress (and main one after the fact) Mimi, came in smiling and greeting everyone and asking what we wanted. She reassured us that the top two choices of congee were large enough to feed our group of five. Now my standards of congee aren’t relatively high, given the fact she mentioned the following ingredients inside: Scallions, Abalone, Scallops, Crab, Rice, Pepper and etc. From personal experience, the majority of the congee I’ve demolished only contain: Rice, Ginger, Strips of Chicken and some Pepper. My pessimistic attitude on a simple Chinese delicacy was warranted right from the start. Ten minutes elapsed and the first dish was set in front of us…
I’ve had my fair share of black bean recipes and variations and I still fully believe this gem is better than the rest (at least within North America). However this particular dish had a nice warm and sticky texture, the green peppers and onions held their crunch. The Black Bean sauce coats every corner of the plate effortlessly, hearty and definitely coma inducing with every spoonful. As much as I enjoyed this dish, I needed to save space, which brings us to our main attraction:
Finally we’re going to settle the score Gum Kuo Restaurant vs. Chi’s Congee and the result? Chi’s congee wins by TKO, all because of the complete and harmonious flavor profile. Gum Kuo and Chi, tied for the base recipe: smooth and piping hot rice porridge in both bowls. The key difference was the flavor and textures; GK’s was dried pulled pork, aged eggs and scallions. Chi’s had the brine from scallions, abalone and scallops all come together with the first wave from the ocean splashing on your tongue. The texture of the rice, cilantro, ginger, scallions, and bits of Peppery Crab, storming your appetite like Normandy Beach and conquering your appetite in a decisive victory.
All that was left was plenty of leftovers and food coma to be spread all around. We didn’t break our wallets either: the bill came to a little over $20.00 Canadian dollars (CAD) with tax and tip. As stated in our introductory quotes, I tried getting a brief history from the Manager from this place. She was surprised and yet somewhat shy to share her family’s personal history *(1) within this neighborhood. In any event, we wished thank them for their hospitality and went off to explore the rest of the suburb.
In spite of recent North America immigration issues (especially within our own borders *(2)) at this time, we have to be grateful for a lot of the immigrants adding culture to our domestic environments. Without this touch of human diversity many foods we know today (Tex-Mex or Chinese Congee) wouldn’t exist in the first place. Before you jump the gun and dish out stereotypes (racial ones especially), maybe take a step back and try their cuisines to get a preview of one’s plight before purging their opportunity to break bread at the same table as you.
Chi’s Congee & Noodle House
1177 Central Parkway W
Mississauga, ON L5C 3J2
1) Chinatown, Toronto via Wikipedia.com “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinatown,_Toronto#First_Chinatown” last viewed; 8 Aug 2014 last updated 8 Aug 2014
2) Texas Bolsters Border Patrol With Its Own via NYTimes.com “http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/07/us/texas-is-accused-of-overreaching-and-overspending-to-police-border.html?_r=0” last viewed 8 Aug 2014, last updated 6 Aug 2014