One of my early significant food person experiences happened just under 20 years ago. That experience opened me up to the world of Asian mall food courts, a world that I could not believe I had been living without. Published perhaps in the Province Newspaper, long before blogs and foodie sites became the things they are today, was a review of James Snacks, a little tiny place in the Empire Mall food court. They did basically one thing and that was clay pot rice. And why had no one told me about clay pot rice before? Why had my world of Chinese food been revolving around almond chicken and sweet and sour pork? This new dish was quite a breakthrough.
Happily, James Snacks is right where it was 2 decades ago (I think more accurately, 17 years ago based on my discussion with the proprietor). Empire Mall is another Richmond mall parking nightmare (not as bad as some) but we got figured out and located the somewhat tired little food court. This would be closer to what I would call a community secret than say, the Aberdeen Mall food court and there was plenty of available seating despite COVID limitations.
We ordered a couple of bowls and waited our 25 minutes (great food takes time). You see, the whole point of clay pot rice is that the hot bowl builds up a delightful rice crust that is crunchy and wonderful. Top that with a comforting stew or whatever you order and you have something amazing. I ordered Frog's Legs and Ginger and was belted by the aroma of ginger the moment that I lifted the lid! Yes, frog's legs taste a little like chicken but maybe just a little more oceany!
Mharie ordered the Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce. Also a wonderful bowl of warmth. I even like the lettuce that gets nicely steamed on the top and holds moisture in the bowl.
James Snacks does have a couple of other things that they offer but the clay pot rice is definitely their specialty. Mom and Pop have been here since the beginning and deserve to be supported. I believe that there are a lot of hidden gems in this kind of ageing and less flashy mall that we need to suss out!
Food 4 out of 5
Service 4 out of 5
Comfort 3 out of 5
Value 4 1/2 out of 5
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