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The show put on by the cooks at Sun’ Kitchen on the second floor of Pacific Mall is every bit as excellent as the food. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
The show put on by the cooks at Sun’ Kitchen on the second floor of Pacific Mall is every bit as excellent as the food. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

The Globe’s 10 best places for Chinese food in Toronto (Hint: Go north) Add to ...

369 Shanghai Dim Sum

While nearby Ding Tai Fung, a knockoff of a famous Taiwan-based restaurant chain, still claims plenty of visitors in search of xiaolongbao, or soup-filled steamed buns, the smart money heads to 369 – a friendly, well-run spot in the Peach Tree plaza. Xiaolongbao are typically thin-skinned, purse-shaped, wheat dough wrappers filled with collagen-rich stock and meat or seafood. At 369 they’re called “juicy buns,” and come stuffed with conpoy (dried scallop), crab, or pork. Pick one up by the top with your chopsticks and hold it over a spoon, being careful not to pierce it. Dip it in red rice vinegar, dress it with ginger, nip the side, quickly slurp out the broth (careful, it’s hot!), then eat the dumpling. Another must-try: the “steamed rice glue with salted stuffing.” (The English language is not the menu’s strong suit.) It’s sticky rice rolled around a deep-fried, cruller-style pastry, wispy threads of pork floss (exactly what it sounds like) and pickled radish. To recap, that’s white starch, vegetables, pork candy and doughnut, all in one irresistible bite-size package. Or as I like to think of it, reason No. 4,439 for why China will soon take over the entire world. 8380 Kennedy Rd., Markham, 905-305-7713

John’s Chinese BBQ Restaurant

To my mind there is just one great reason to come here: for the King of Kings pork, which is not on the menu, which you should call ahead to order, and which also risks ruining other barbecue pork dishes for all eternity. The King of Kings is tender belly, sweet-lacquered, gently candied, mildly burnt in places. It’s sliced thick and served over firm, sweet-braised soy beans. It’s one of the greatest pork dishes anywhere, made even better with a round of Tsing Tao beer and a dish of steamed green vegetables. Order rice on the side and the sweet, red-bean soup kissed with orange peel to finish. There are other dishes, of course – jiggly fish maw, whole steamed bass (I could have sworn it was tilapia), decent if workaday barbecue duck. But the pork is the killer dish. 328 Hwy 7 E., Richmond Hill, 905-881-3333

Bowl Kee

If you grew up, as I did, squeezing packets of Lee Kum Kee plum sauce over deep-fried egg rolls in red-carpeted rooms with names like “Golden Dragon,” you’ll recognize the feel of Bowl Kee. It’s cheap, cheerful, thick in the air with the smell of wok hei – the breath of the wok – and just a little bit dingy. It’s every bit an old-school Canadian-Chinese egg roll joint, except the cooking isn’t Canadian-Chinese. Bowl Kee specializes in unfussy Cantonese cooking, piled high for multigeneration families gathered tight around lazy susans. You get three dishes plus soup and half a chicken for $39 here. Towering feasts for eight to 10 – gargantuan platters of spicy sautéed crab, hot-pot rice with Chinese sausage, prawns, fish fillets – start at $168. I loved the rice pots, the fuzzy gourd with minced meat and noodles, the pork and chicken soup, the just-set egg custard, the free half-chicken on the bed of pickled carrot and daikon. An absolute standout: the battered, deep-fried capelin. (They’re advertised on the wall, in Chinese only; ask for the fried silver fish.) In a rare departure, there’s sweet and sour pork, also, with orange sauce that tastes like it just might not have come from a 10-gallon bucket. Is it a sop for non-Chinese customers? “Everybody orders it,” a server said. 8360 Kennedy Rd., Unit B3, 905-948-1249

Sun’s Kitchen

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