One reason that I’m a super big weirdo is that, while I do not like tapioca pudding as it feels like there’s foreign bodies jammed into the body of my smooth pudding, I love rice pudding. It’s weird, I don’t know why there’s a difference, but there is! Maybe I had a traumatic experience with tapioca as a child. But what I do remember is that, as a kid, my dad would take me to the local deli whenever he was buying cold cuts for my week’s lunches, and I would get to pick out 1/4 pound–just a tiny plastic cup–of their freshly made cinnamon rice pudding. I would milk that shit for all it was worth, eating it as slowly as possible, even one rice grain at a time, to savor that creamy, sweet pudding flavor. Nowadays I buy a Kozy Shack tub and gorge on rice pudding when it’s on sale at the grocery store, but it doesn’t come close to the homemade taste I used to get from that deli.
Rice pudding isn’t just the sweet Western dessert we know it to be: technically speaking, any porridge made from rice and water (or milk) constitutes a rice pudding, and nearly every culinary culture in the world has some sort of rice pudding in their diet. Many Asian cultures make rice puddings both sweet and savory, adding sugar, saffon, coconut milk, ginger…a whole smorgasbord of tastes right in a delicious pudding 🙂 And Latin American culinary cultures make sweet arroz con leche, with cinnamon, egg yoks, and raisins soaked in rum (yum!) They sound a lot more interesting than the plain long-grain rice and milk porridge we make here in the States!
But no matter what kind of flavor you’re looking for in rice pudding, there’s one place in New York that will have it, hands down. Rice To Riches lives by its name, serving only variations of rice pudding, but man, do they get it right! They make over twenty flavors each day, from the classic and familiar vanilla or cinnamon to more outrageous, yet delicious, flavors, like French toast, mascarpone, tiramisu, and peach mango. They offer free samples of any of the flavors you’re wary about; I’ve tried their caramel and it is out of this world sweet and good. Their French toast flavor has even been highlighted as Lisa Lillien’s favorite chilled dish on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. The decor feels modern and whimsical, like the Pinkberries and Red Mangoes dotting the rest of the neighborhood, but with a self-awareness that almost seems to give off the knowing wink that yeah, it’s a bit ridiculous that all they serve is rice pudding. But man, when it tastes this good, who can blame them?
Rice To Riches
37 Spring St (between Mott St & Mulberry St)
“Even blasé Soho-ites were a little bemused when this space-age shop opened, serving nothing but rice pudding in flavors that sounded like bad names: Subborn Banana, Black Cherry Birthday Suit, Coconut Coma. But the orange plastic take-out bowls are groovy (and reusable), the puddings are tasty, and the place is open till midnight on the weekends. Oh, how sweet it is.”–Time Out New York
“This hyper-designed Nolita storefront’s specialty is rice pudding, and it’s available in twenty-one flavors by the cup or the 40-ounce container. Plain vanilla is for purists; Sex Drugs and Rocky Road is for thrill-seekers.”–New York Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Although the price is a little insane for rice pudding I think it is absolutely worth it. Considering a small portion is enough to feed 3 people and you can take it home the desert ends up lasting way more than a trip there. The flavor options are amazing- mango, banana walnut, classic vanilla, cheesecake…etc. They also have an amazing array of toppings to choose from (the whipped cream is made in house and is absolutely delicious for 1 dollar extra). I tried the vanilla and the chocolate hazelnut- both were excellent. The texture of the pudding is thicker than usual but it gives it a really rich and creamy flavor. I will absolutely be coming back!”–Rachel T.
“They have a massive amount of different rice puddings not unlike the flavors you might see at an artisan ice cream shop, but with edgier names: Sex, Love, and Rocky Road, Category 5 Caramel, The Edge of Rum Raisin, and plenty of other flavors that’ll elicit a little giggle from you and your cohorts. All good, and they’ll let you sample darn near all of them before making your decision. And boy, will it be hard to choose, as they’re all pretty darn special.”–Ruggy J.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!