Whether it’s served as a side or as the base of a dish — or even sweetened for breakfast or dessert — rice is part of many beloved dishes around the world.
“From a Midwestern perspective, a lot of it is used as a filler,” Food Critic Jenny Vergara told guest host Brian Ellison on KCUR’s Central Standard.
“I think what makes a hero rice dish stand out is something that absolutely makes rice the centerpiece,” she added.
Vergara, along with Food Critics Mary Bloch and Charles Ferruzza, searched out the best rice dishes in and around Kansas City.
Here are their recommendations:
Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:
- Sura Eats — bibimbap. Sura East is a new pop-up that has been holding monthly dinners in the City Market. They serve a mean bibimbap that is topped with spinach, carrots, zucchini, pickled cucumber, cabbage and a fried egg on top.
- El Tenedor food truck — paella. Chef Carmen Cabia serves at least two kinds: a vegetarian one and usually her Paella de Carnes (a meat lover’s paella with beef, pork, chicken and sausage).
- Bob Wasabi Kitchen — spicy fish bowl. A generous bowl that has sushi rice on the bottom, mixed with shredded lettuce and topped with a variety of cubed fresh fish, sliced cucumber, sprouts, sesame seeds, a dollop of orange flying fish roe, and drizzled with Bob’s own spicy chili sauce.
- Bella Napoli — Arancini di Giovanna. Typically served as an Italian appetizer, arancini is made from risotto rice that’s usually stuffed with mozzarella cheese, covered in breadcrumbs and fried. Bella Napoli’s features little bits of beef, mozzarella and peas.
- Port Fonda — arroz con leche. An excellent version of rice pudding. It’s made from a warm horchata pudding, with all of those comforting warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla made with almond milk, topped with macerated fresh and dried fruits on top.
Rice dish that is on my list to try:
- Füd — The Wild One. It’s described as a diner-style shiitake mushroom and wild rice burger on a whole wheat bun, with some sort of special sauce they call Thrillanaise.
Mary Bloch, Around the Block:
- The American — crab fried rice. It’s chock-full of succulent pieces of king crab.
- Bob Wasabi Kitchen — spicy fish bowl.
- Bob Wasabi Kitchen — the TNT roll, which has Hamachi, tuna and salmon, and lightly fried, tempura-style.
- Port Fonda — arroz con pollo: roasted chicken thighs and Mexican fried rice, and topped with a poached egg and hot sauce.
- Sakae Sushi
- La Bodega — paella.
- Carmen’s Café — paella.
- Sobahn — bibimbap. Rice, veggies and beef, plus a gochujang sauce (a Korean chile and bean paste). Best topped with a fried egg.
- Korma Sutra — biriyani, an Indian rice dish that uses saffron. Love it with lamb or vegetables.
- India Palace — biriyani
Charles Ferruzza, The Independent:
- Thai Place — basil fried rice. It’s the best cure for upper respiratory ailments. Fried rice prepared with fried egg, fresh Thai basil, bell peppers, jalapeños and onions. I order it Extra Hot.
- Sobahn — bibimbap. Steamed rice with cooked vegetables and, if desired, grilled meat often served in a white-hot stone pot.
- Story — wild mushroom risotto, prepared with a poached egg, pancetta, parmesan.
- Swagat — biryani rice. A truly classic Indian dish (probably Persian in origin) with an exceptional spice blend.
- Jersualem Bakery — rice pudding. I feel like they put rosewater and maybe some vanilla in it. Since it’s chilled, it tastes almost like ice cream. It’s really good.
- Ninfa's — the rice is always very flavorful, very moist and it doesn’t fall off your fork when you pick it up.
- Café Verona —the risotto with pesto, asparagus, tomatoes and giant shrimp.
- Bistro 913 — Hawaiian poke rice
- Ophelia's — risotto with roasted asparagus and salmon steak. It's absolutely delicious.
Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at email@example.com.