I've lived in Riverdale's Chinatown for the past five years, and although it's not the most fashionable area, its reasonable rents and easy access to transit and bike paths makes it a fairly comfortable spot not too far from the downtown core. It's a beautiful day today in Chinatown East, and the drinks are cheap, cheap, cheap. The crowd who pass out on my doorstep have known this for years.
I don't know them by name, though by now I should. Unlike many visitors, they're not here for the dim sum.
It's a different kind of Chinese delicacy that keeps the destitute coming back.
It's labelled "salt cooking liquor" or "salted cooking sauce," and at $1.99 a bottle and a whopping 18 per cent alcohol, it packs a knockout punch.
The listed ingredients are basic: water, alcohol and salt. Just add some bar lime and you've got yourself a pretty accurate gimlet.
Why bother with the LCBO, where you'll find bottles of wine containing 12 per cent alcohol by volume at more than five times the price?
I'm told by a local grocer that it's used in the stir frying and steaming of vegetables, but the only evidence suggesting that "salt cooking liquor" is a cooking product is the name on the label and a statement that the product is not a beverage.
According to liquor laws, any product that has a certain level of salt content may be sold in produce stores, my local MPP, Marilyn Churley, tells me.
My local councillor, Paula Fletcher, seems more concerned about "the issue of alcohol being sold outside of the LCBO" and promises to look into it further.
I'm sure Chinatown's chefs could substitute a watered-down vodka with a dash of salt. That would be just fine.