While we were in Toronto a couple of weeks ago, we took a walk around Kensington Market, the well-known food and art section of town. I knew that there was a Latino community in Toronto and we figured that there might be empanadas to be had. We discovered some at Jumbo Empanadas, though at $4 apiece, we were expecting ENORMOUS empanadas (as they had been much cheaper in South America). The filling was Chilean all right – raisins, olives, egg, ground beef, spices – but the dough was a little disappointing and dry. The spicy tomato salsa you see on the side certainly helped perk things up, though. Overall, a mediocre empanada, but not terrible.
The tamales were quite good, though. I’m glad we each took half of the two dishes, as I wouldn’t have been satisfied with a single bite of this. Well-ground (or pureed) corn, good spices, cooked in corn husks – this tasted like we remembered it.
With the snow falling gently around us like a Christmas movie, our next stop was on Spadina at Mother’s Dumplings. The dumplings looked like the ones we had in Taiwan, and the jasmine tea was just so good that we had to order ten guo tie (fried dumplings). While not quite as awesome as our favourite place in Taiwan, these definitely held their own. The juices dripped out as we nibbled – always a good sign – and the meat was expertly spiced. The chef is from southern China, so it made sense that they tasted similar to the ones we had had in Taiwan. When our waitress found out that Chris spoke Mandarin, she immediately launched into a flowery history of the restaurant in Chinese. We got maybe half of it, but she was happy just to speak Mandarin, I think. We sat and sipped jasmine tea after that, watching business people and snow drift by on the street.
A quick dessert at a Chinese bakery nearby got us a couple of these delicious rice flour-sesame seed-sticky buns, whatever they’re called. I love these with a passion. Sweet and delicate, yet a solid, filling rice flour centre, I could sit and eat them all afternoon.
Finally, we stopped into David’s Tea, which I was introduced to in Ottawa by the friends I was staying with. They have loose teas for basically everyone – Chris was elated to find a big selection of decaffeinated teas and ended up getting four. It’s trendy, sure, as tea is these days (is there a food that isn’t trendy now? Rutabagas?), but if someone you know is a tea lover, a quality cup of tea is something that relaxes and warms and makes a pretty waste-free gift.
Toronto is wonderful for this. It’s probably a good thing we don’t live there, as this could happen a lot.
245 Augusta Ave.
421 Spadina Ave.
2389 Yonge St.