Kansas City’s food scene is more international than ever before, and anything else in these global dishes, the key to many of them is rice.
“Rice is such a versatile ingredient that is used by so many different cultures,” notes KCUR food critic Danielle Lehman. “What I like about some of the things on my list is that the rice is the focal point of the dish and not just an afterthought that soaks up the sauce.”
According to Lehman, Jenny Vergara, and Bonjwing Lee, here are the best rice dishes in and around Kansas City:
Danielle Lehman, Open Belly Podcast:
- Sura eats – Bibimbap. This relaxed take on a traditional Korean dish is served with beef, tofu, or spicy pork; my favorite is the pork, which pairs well with pickled vegetables, steamed rice, and a dripping egg on top. I like it with lots of spicy Sura sauce (a gochujang based sauce) on top.
- Sura eats – fried rice with kimchi. The flavor of this dish is intensified because the kimchi is cooked in the fried rice. For a spicy and salty lunch, I like to add pickled vegetables and lots of Sura sauce.
- Sobahn‘s bibimbap is my favorite traditional bibimbap in town. It’s topped with beef and traditional Korean vegetables like bean sprouts, daikon radishes, and shiitake mushrooms. Serving it in a stone pot gives the bottom layer of rice a nice crispy texture.
- Sohaila’s kitchen – chicken Biryani. Located in the Lenexa Public Market, this place serves some of my favorite Pakistani cuisine. This family-friendly recipe for chicken, basmati rice, and Pakistani herbs and spices is served with a yogurt sauce and is incredibly fragrant, flavorful and comforting on a cold day.
- Fannie’s African cuisine – jollof rice. With a rich and deep tomato paste, onions and peppers, this dish has flavors similar to Caribbean cuisine. Chef and owner Fannie Gibson was born in Liberia, immigrated to Kansas City as a teenager, and now serves her favorite West African fare on 41st & Troost.
- Broken rice – broken rice plate. At this restaurant in Gladstone’s Little Saigon Plaza, a simple plate of meat, fresh herbs and vegetables is accompanied by white rice that was broken during harvest and could not be sold. The difference is in the texture. I like to order it with the short rib, a flanken style rib with a sweet and salty marinade similar to a Korean barbecue style.
- Waldo Thai Place – khao tod nam sod. This dish consists of crispy fried rice, pork sausage, onion, cilantro, peanuts and chili peppers. The idea is to wrap the rice in a lettuce leaf and squeeze it with some fresh lime, but I actually put it in my mouth with a fork as quickly as possible.
- PI-O – fried rice with kimchi. This side dish at a Mexican spot off Southwest Boulevard is spicy, flavorful, and a perfect pairing for wood-fired chicken. They also make their vegan kimchi in-house.
- Candy and bakery queen – lamb shank flour. Braised until tender, it is served with homemade hummus and saffron rice with fresh herbs and spices, grilled tomatoes and onion.
- Karbon – Local bowl. Usually made with black rice and quinoa, this bowl is made with local ingredients that change weekly depending on the season and a bright citrus vinaigrette.
- KC Grill ‘N Kabob – tahdig. One of my favorite Persian dishes, it’s made with saffron and turmeric, then cooked over direct heat to make it crisp on the bottom. Here it is served with sabzi (stew). This Lenexa spot also offers a weekend buffet.
- The Russel – krispie rice treat. This traditional treat from the rotating dessert menu is enhanced with butterscotch and a layer of cookie crumbs. It’s also gluten-free! The Russell is a great place to have a healthy lunch followed by an overly decadent dessert.
Jenny Vergara, Party magazine:
- Bo Lings – sizzling rice soup with chicken (for 2). Savory chicken broth, sliced onions, mushrooms, snow peas and thin slices of tender chicken breast are served in a steaming giant bowl. A handful of crispy fried rice floats on top for added texture and crunch.
- Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar – charred Spanish octopus. This smooth and silky risotto is made with layered Arborio rice, piquillo peppers, tangy candied lemons, pork salami and cilantro. Toasted almonds and smoked charred Spanish octopus add a crunch.
- Jarocho & Jarocho South – Seafood paella. Chef Carlos Falcon packs it with fish, clams, mussels, squid and shrimp, then pairs it with Bomba rice flavored with saffron.
- KC Kochary – koshary. This Egyptian street food specialty is hearty, inexpensive and iconic. White rice, brown lentils, chickpeas and pasta are mixed with a tomato sauce flavored with cumin and garnished with crispy fried onions. It is also accompanied by condiments like Dakka, a kind of garlic vinegar, and shatta, a spicy chili sauce.
- Pirate bone burgers – Horchata. While they’re best known for their colorful veggie burgers, people also love the Latin-inspired coffee drinks that owners Zaid Consuegra and Lydia Palma featured in their original cafe. This herbal horchata is made with homemade rice milk, cinnamon and vanilla for extra warmth and sweetness. It can also be ordered “dirty” with a double dose of espresso.
- Baramee Thai Bistro – sticky rice with mango. My favorite take on this classic Thai dessert is made with slow cooked long grain rice with coconut milk and sugar. It is then topped with decorative fresh flowers and thin slices of sweet mango and topped with coconut syrup and sesame seeds.
- The Rieger – mushroom tahdig. Catch this Persian-inspired dish while it’s still on the menu. The saffron and turmeric white rice is cooked so that it is crisp, then flipped just before serving to reveal a sort of crust. The rice is then filled with eggplant, tomatoes, herbs, cucumber and a cooked quail egg.
- Waldo Thai Place – khao tod nam sod. This dish is so tasty, funky and spicy that I really want it. Tufts of crispy seasoned rice are mixed with cured and cured pork sausages, green onions, red onions, cilantro, peanuts and dried chili. Stuff as much as possible in a lettuce leaf and enjoy.
- Plaque – Small oranges. On a modern Italian menu, these crisp, golden arancini rice balls offer old-fashioned comfort. Made with leftover saffron risotto, stuffed with prime rib and garnished with basil oil, Taleggio cheese and sundried tomato sauce, they come to the table in a plate to share.
Bonjwing Lee, The ultimate epicure:
- Kurry Culture – biryani. Kulture Kurry offers several versions of this North Indian rice dish that mixes curry spices and often meat and / or vegetables. They also offer biryani dishes with goat cheese, chicken and paneer.
- Seva cuisine from India – pulao. This version of Indian pilaf includes pineapple and a choice of meat. I had the lamb version and it’s deliciously spicy.
- Kin Lin – fried rice with dried salted fish. I’m not sure how this dish could be translated to English as I’m not sure if it is printed on the menu, but you can call ahead and request it. The pieces of fish are extremely hot and salty. They are reconstituted in water and sautéed with rice and sometimes vegetables.