Toronto, in my opinion, is the true United Nations. It is a city where you can experience many cultures when it is near its authentic core and not contaminated by the locals. Some cities claims they can do this but in reality, for the groups to survive, they must adapt to the locals in order to stay in business. To gain a clearer point of view for this behavior, one can look at the foods available in Toronto versus everywhere else. Being Chinese, specifically Cantonese speaking Chinese, I can say that the Cantonese food available within the borders of Toronto is as authentic as they can make it. The only limitations the chefs have expressed when I spoke with them are the ingredients’s availability. For example ha gau (Steam Shrimp Dumplings dim sum) are supposed to be made of a very particular type of fresh live shrimps. To do that a hundred percent authentically in Toronto, that four piece dish is going to cost an arm and a leg as you have to fly that particular batch over from Canton. So they adjusted to use frozen shrimp of the same variety instead. However, the taste of of the dim sum remain as authentic as they can so it pleases the authentic Chinese Canadians in the City. This is possible because the population of Chinese people are capable of sustaining these otherwise specialized food places. This is what makes Toronto’s food so authentic, there are large enough groups of people to sustain their own culture’s food places to allow the chefs and owners to not alter their cultural food just to please the locals while staying in business. If they do alter the menu, there will always be a small corner where the chefs would reserve for authentic cultural foods. This was the case back in the chop suey days, if it is still practiced today, it would be the same.
So as a foodie who literally grew up in Toronto, I was exposed to many distinct cultural foods from all over the world and have never been shy to express my desires to try more. An old colleague of mine from a few jobs ago was surprised that I was willing to try some Indian desserts when most Caucasian colleagues were literally scared of it. If he sees me today, he will most likely be shocked out of his mind.
One of my favorite places in Toronto is a grocery store called Adonis, English speaking people read it as Aar-Don-nus while an Egyptian friend of mine pronounce it as A-Don-Needs. Not sure which one is correct, but I would lean more towards the Egyptian one as most of the food I found in here are Halal related and she is a Muslim. Adonis’ founders are from Lebanon and therefore have something that I am not normally exposed to in the grocery stores in Chinese community, such as T&T and Oriental, or the grocery stores in the local Canadian Community, such as Metro and Loblaws. Every time I visited Adonis, I always stop by their hot food area to pick up some lunch. They have things like Shawrama wraps, Samosas, Falafel, and many more. Everytime I visit, I am constantly debating on which food to buy and usually end up buying more than I can really eat. This syndrome wouldn’t be foreign to those non-Chinese foodies who enters the T&T’s hot food area, that’s a very intriguing feeling. Adonis is actually very close in proximity to where I go for maintenance on my cars, hence I visit it pretty offend. Each time I am there, I wanted to try their sweets but are usually stuffed to the top with the non-sweets. You’ll have to see the sweets section for yourself if you have a serious sweet tooth, there is a section on French pastries and cakes, the same size as your typical Metro’s cake section. However, that’s a quarter of their actual sweets section. If you just have one piece from each of the sweets, I am sure you’ll use up three to four days worth of total calories.
To be honest, I would have tried the Lebanese or Middle Eastern sweets. However, my primary goal is to get them to share with my parents, therefore the french pastries are the only ones I am willing to try. I purchased a small fraction of the choices available and took them home. Here are the ones I’ve purchased.
Creme brulee, it is super sweet but super yummy. I only had one spoon from this as my mother ate the rest.
The best part about these little cakes are its sizes. The cream brulee is the largest one on the list, including the bowl, it is no larger than the size of a computer mouse. The mango mousse cake is the smallest at the size department and it is the size of a typical plastic toy ball cut in half. It brings some freshness to the otherwise boring routine of eating from a Chinese grocery store.