A Worthwhile Wait for Crispy Rice

Todays News

Photo taken by Andrew Fabian

When an order is placed and the server informs you that the dish takes a little while to prepare, the subtext of the statement reads, “are you sure you’re ready for this level of commitment?” In the realm of culinary arts, longer cook times tend to equate to food that is more tender, flavorful and complex. The expectation of a more delicious meal, however, plays tug of war with the expectation that the food come out quickly. This poses a philosophical quandary for a diner. 

Do you want good food now, or do you want great food a little later? 

In the case of Little Saigon Bistro, a Vietnamese restaurant on the Northeast corner of Beneva and Webber, take the great food a little later. The claypot rice dish on their menu (C7) comes with chicken, shrimp, Chinese sausage, mixed vegetables, a spicy seafood sauce known as XO sauce and, of course, rice. The ingredients seem common enough on their own, but the 20-minute cook time in a clay pot dramatically transforms them into something exceptional. In the clay pot, the flavors blend and compound, with the glutamates in the XO sauce and the mushrooms taking the dish to unexpected umami heights. The rice absorbs some of that umami, but its magic lies elsewhere. All the rice that’s touching the surface of the clay pot gets crispy and browned, adding a crunchy texture to the dish and accenting the umami with that comforting burned flavor that accounts for so much goodness in food—the sear on a steak, the char on toast, the burns on roasted vegetables. 

This is a dish with more complexity than its strip mall price tag warrants. Bring a book, a date or a chess set and enjoy the wait. It’s worth it.

Little Saigon Bistro, 2725 S Beneva Road, Sarasota, 941-312-4730

Photo taken by Andrew Fabian

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