A trip to the Kensington Market and Chinatown area in the heart of Toronto is always an adventure for those of a culinary bent. There are so many options and so much potential, especially for those looking for great food while trying to stay on a budget.
It is impossible, in one blog post, to visit all of the places, restaurants and products/foodstuffs that I would like to highlight in this historic district (now threatened by proposed incursions by retail giants like Loblaws and Walmart...but more on this later) , so today I will make a first foray with a promise to return.
Their Lo Mein dishes and beef sizzling plate have also been memorable stand outs over the years, and it is hard to go wrong with any of their soups. Two people can easily eat here for less than $40.
Lao Gan Ma hot sauces that I blogged about before, as well as finding literally hundreds of other options. The prices of meat, vegetables and sauces here are highly affordable and worth the trip.
Often when in Chinatown I like to buy a few of the Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwiches from Nguyen Huong Food. These are an incredible value at $2.00 for regular or $2.50 for large, and are served on a fresh french style bun filled up with pickled vegetables, assorted sliced meats, a pate, sauce and, if you wish, gloriously hot sliced red peppers. If not having them right then and there (though there is no seating, so you have to find a bench or eat while strolling around) I take them home and they make a perfect late afternoon snack or lunch the next day at the park with the kids.
Beemster cheese. A hard cheese where a little goes a long way, he said it would go perfectly with a heavy red wine...and it did! (I enjoyed it with Castillo de Monseran, a Spanish wine that can be had at the LCBO for only $9.95 a bottle).
This is one of the places you can find all four of the Goya Salsita line of hot sauces. All four are complex and delicious, each featuring a specific key flavour and a varying level of heat and smokiness or tang. My favourite is the Pure Fire Ripe Habanero Chiles blend which is, as one might expect, very hot, but also full of rich flavours that do not overpower but compliment, the key to a great hot sauce. I like this one on rice, with beans or as a dipping sauce for steak. A side bowl of it is a perfect accompaniment to a grilled Rib Eye.
This wraps up our first foray into this great part of Toronto, a hub and gem of affordability, diversity and history.
Sadly, retail giants Loblaws and Walmart want to set up shop right on the very edges of Kensington and Chinatown, bringing their usual, stale and faceless blend of corporate blandness and "convenience". I hope you consider taking the time to read about this and signing the petitions of The Friends of Kensington Market in opposition to it.
Swatow is located at 309 Spadina Ave. Hua Sheng Supermarket is located at 293 Spadina Ave. Nguyen Huong Food is located at 322 Spadina Ave. Cheese Magic is located at 182 Baldwin St. Perola's Supermarket is located at 247 Augusta Ave.