I’ve very much enjoyed this winter so far (so far being essential, I’m sure I’ll be complaining by the end of March). We’ve had few very cold days and some beautiful mild days, perfect for activities like hiking, snowshoeing and skiing. Whether it’s a frigid -20 day or a mild day spent outside, there’s nothing better than a bowl of hot soup when you’ve finished.
We’re lucky to have some amazing choices for soup of many varieties on the Island. It’s been nice to see Hojo’s on Kent Street bring some amazing ramen to the table. Ramen is probably my favourite food, something I think I could eat every day. My favourite variety, which Hojo’s does very well, is the rich pork-based Tonkotsu. The Tonkotsu broth is probably the most well-known, originating in the Fukuoka prefecture of Japan. Hojo’s does a very good job of being true to my experience of this ramen, offering the classic soy-marinated egg and a hearty slice of pork belly. I recommend checking out Hojo’s for lunch when the ramen is offered for $11, but don’t go if you have big plans in the afternoon, because you may need a nap.
I’ve also tried their shoyu, which is a soy-based ramen that is considerably lighter than the rich Tonkotsu. Either way, you’ll be satisfied. And, I should mention that Hojo’s makes their own noodles in-house and you can definitely taste the difference from the store bought variety, they have a nice bite and do not disintegrate under the heat of the broth.
Ramen is undoubtedly delicious, but it’s also rich and powerful. Sometimes, a gentler soup is required. For this, I recommend the newly opened Pho Queen. Pho is less rich, but, when done correctly, is still flavourful and comforting. Pho Hung used to be my go-to, but it has since closed, and Pho Queen does an admirable job filling their shoes. The staff is extremely friendly and welcoming, and the broth is excellent. I can also recommend getting a nice side of their homemade spring rolls.
Sometimes you want a soup that isn’t rich or gentle, one that hits a little bit harder. For that, I recommend the excellent Ginger and Onion soup (#71) at Asia Republic on University Avenue. The soup is absolutely filled with fresh ginger and is the perfect remedy for the chills on a cold winter day. I really love everything Asia Republic does, but this soup has been a staple for me since the day they opened.
Finally, something a little more indulgent. The Dundee Arms has been one of my favourite brunch spots for a long time, but they are also one of the few places that offers a classic French onion soup. I just can’t resist this dish when it’s on the menu, one of the absolutely perfect comfort foods. You know, maybe follow it with one of their desserts, like their traditional butter tart. Who does a dessert cart anymore? The Dundee is kind of a special place.
Finally, you’ve been walking all day and you stop into Receiver Coffee to grab a great cup of joe. Their chilli is really good! It’s also a great gluten free offering that has my good buddy Max Knechtel’s seal of approval.
So, with a little help from some warm soup, we may survive this endless winter or, at least, eat our way through it. The light at the end of the tunnel is soon, we’ll be talking about burgers and then all of our favourite seasonal spots will begin to shuffle off the ice and snow and begin to come to life.