Friday, 27 July 2012

Toronto: It's All About that Ethnic Food

Before leaving Toronto I wanted to write a going away blog. And I did. I finished it a few minutes ago. The only problem is that, once I started editing it, I realised I hadn't said what I wanted to say. And, for me at least, what I wanted to say had to be said.

So here I am again, trying to write about my last four months in Toronto. And really, when all is said and done, all I want to say is this: I've never been to a place with food as good as Toronto's. I'm pissed that we don't get the recognition as one of the great food capitals. And I'm tired of the "foodies", cooks and other industry people that go on about Toronto's horrible restaurants and slag the food we have in this city.

Fine. We don't have michelin star level restaurants. And if you are marking Toronto's food scene by some Western European fine dining rubric, our city under-performs when compared to New York, Paris or London. But who cares? If you want a lobe of foie gras, wrapped in hay ash gel go to another city. Toronto is all about that immigrant cooking.

That greasy, soupy, fragrant, mouth-watering immigrant cooking.

I don't care if Copenhagen has the best restaurant in the world or that Tokyo has the most michelin stars. Because at the end of the day, you can't ride your bike for twenty minutes in those cities and come across a Korean restaurant making food you could find in Seoul, a Chinese place serving authentic Cantonese barbecue and a Trinidadian shop cooking the most delicious Caribbean food. You couldn't find an El Salvadoran grocery with a kitchen at the back making fresh papusas across the street from a Neapolitan pizzeria. And you couldn't get Pastel de Nata from a Portuguese bakery for dessert after smashing a giant, steaming bowl of Pho.

There is no place, that I have ever been to that has a more vibrant, diverse immigrant population than Toronto. And because of this, we have, probably, the greatest concentration of high quality, authentic and affordable ethnic food on the planet. There is no doubt: if you are into simple, delicious, nourishing grub in all its forms, Toronto is the place to be. It is the food mecca for the everyman of every world.

To all those who love to hate on what this city has to offer gastronomically, I say this: get your head's out of your Eurocentric asses and look around you. Just because the dinner you had at that new hipster restaurant was bad and cost you 100 dollars, doesn't mean the Sri Lankan place in Little India isn't still pumping out mouth watering dosas for 6.99. 

Toronto is special because it is ethnically diverse. Full stop. Our immigrant communities provide us with a quality and plentitude of food choice unparalleled in other cities. Acknowledge this fact, respect it and represent it. 

So, there it is. My farewell to to Toronto. I'm not even going to edit it. Rants are a dish best served salty.


  1. HEAR HEAR! Spoken so passionately and so well. A fitting farewell (DON'T GO!). I'll add to that Gourmet Burgers. Not "ethnic" but noteworthy nonetheless. No gourmet burgers in Holland. If you want burgers, it's McDonalds or Burger King. Full stop. As the Dutchman would say, sometimes in his sleep, "Toronto has the best burgers!" And the best vegetarian burgers, too. Thanks for your loving tribute to a beloved city. It's the food, isn't it?

  2. Bravo a eloquent and very true rant I must say! As a chef myself i feel like people often overlook or rather turn their noses up at places that arnt quite michelin star worthy. I myself would perfer char siu bao from a tiny bakery in china town than the glitz and glam of the uptown places, I feel like you can taste someones grandma in the little touches. Hell the best mexican food Ive ever had is out of a truck in Kingston,Ny of all places. Also just so I know that Ive broached the topic in this rant of a comment; there is no way not now not ever that Toronto has a better burger than NYC! Ciao and happy travels

  3. Way to go ... I love all the "little" restaurants, especially noodles and sweets and ices ... and also the "food carts" selling Chinese munchies!

    Bravo Haan! I raise a toast (Chinese soy milk or bubble tea) to you (and Lisa) as you venture forth in the world while keep reminding us how glorious Toronto is!