I spent just over a week in Canada - mainly Toronto, with a countryside jaunt to Penetanguishene. Yes, I can't pronounce that either. Toronto was perfect for sightseeing (EATING) with 25 degrees and sunshine every day. We wandered around happily, devouring bags of pickle-flavoured Doritos and bacon chipotle popcorn, willing our digestive systems to do its thing so that we could stuff another meal in. Here's some of the things that made me fat.
Upon our arrival we headed for Chinatown where we witnessed a spring roll eating competition. Two of the three competitors managed a pitiful 4 in 6 minutes. We heckled, and then headed for Mother's Dumplings. Well-flavoured with thin skins and decent crisp bottoms, the pork and prawn potstickers came as 10 priced at around £5 (top picture). Siu long bao, those broth-filled dumplings that are so hard to get good were listed as 'juicy pork buns' on the menu. Left to cool down for as long as we could bear, I caved in and delicately grabbed one, with only mild burnage from the exploding dumpling. It's a real skill, judging and being able to wait until the dumplings are of temperate heat. The dumpling skins were just the right thickness to hold their contents, and the broth was appropriately porky and full of ginger flavour.
We were staying in Koreatown so a lunch there was inevitable. It was a particularly hot day which prompted me to order the Naengmyeon in an empty Korea House - buckwheat noodles, served in an icy cold noodle soup. The soup even had ice floating in it, so cold it was. The noodles had a great chewiness to them and I was pleased the waitress had come with scissors to cut them into manageable lengths as I was victim of the noodle flap. Garnished with half a boiled egg and a seriously chewy, dry piece of beef, this was a vinegary dish; the slices of radish are pickled, and it was served with a bottle of vinegar on the side so that you can add more to your taste. Refreshing, though I found the one-flavourness of it all a bit dull by the end of it. But no matter, as little dishes (provided FREE, as it should be - you hear, London?) of banchan - two types of kimchi, some seasoned bean sprouts, seasoned seaweed and a totally awesome potato marinated in something salty and sweet - broke up the monotony. I have no idea whether this is the best place to eat in K-Town, but my friend's stew and a noodle dish were pretty good too.
Banh Mi Boys was recommended to me by the lovely Shayma and happily it turned out to be almost next door to where we had arranged to go boozing that evening. It was meant to be. Inside, you park a friend at one of 10 or so seats while you go and place your order and wait for the food. The menu reads well, with a selection of banh mi, Korean-style tacos and steamed baos. I went for a classic lemongrass-grilled pork banh mi - a bargain at £3.50ish - with a side of kimchi fries. The banh mi was excellent, properly airy and light baguette with intenselyporky pork that was juicy from its marinade. Pickled carrot and daikon was in abundance and provided a crunchy contrast to the meat. Kimchi fries were thin skin-on chips topped with pulled pork, kimchi, spring onion and mayo; despite its name, the kimchi seemed an ingredient too far but they were still hoovered up quick smart.
Speaking of chips, we couldn't very well go to Canada without trying poutine, could we? Chips topped with gravy and cheese curds was never going to sound massively appealing, but they were awesome drunk food, and I imagine it would also be awesome hangover food. Poutini's House of Poutine serves only that, with standing room to enjoy your gravy-drenched chips interspersed with squeaky curds. We went for the classic, while my friend went for 'the works' - topped with bacon, sour cream and chives. I'm surprised he didn't die of a heart attack then and there. Compared to another poutine we had (at Holy Chuck), the gravy was more peppery but had decent beef flavour.
It was at Holy Chuck that we had awesomely beefy burgers. The only day it rained, we took shelter by stuffing our faces with them, poutine and bacon panko-crusted deep fried pickles. The menu (PDF alert!) is massive and daunting as well as slightly terrifying (check out the Go Chuck Yourself) but I finally decided on the Big Bad Wolf. At around £6, it was two patties fried in 'ball park mustard' and topped with caramelised onions and cheese. Cooked medium as standard, it was so juicy and beefy the juices ran down my hands almost to the elbow. The deep fried pickles, thick cut and served with a spicy mayo were glorious. The poutine was addictive. I'm drooling a little, recalling this meal actually.
La Carnita was recommended to us and we popped by for a taco snack before our dinner plans. Once a street van and now a permanent fixture, La Carnita was opened by a couple of chaps from a digital design agency. We sat outside so I can't comment much about the decor, but the tacos were far from authentic Mexican street food; instead they were presented prettily, with modern takes on them such as using apple and mango as part of the toppings. We were big fans of the ox tongue tostada (back left) and the battered fish taco was greaseless and light. I wish we'd gone back for a more thorough work out of the menu. For a more traditional take on tacos, we liked El Trompo on Kensington Market. Good margaritas too.
A trip to St Lawrence Market saw us eating three lunches. We started off with a Canadian speciality; peameal bacon. More like a ham steak these were half an inch thick and crusted with corneal. It was like an awesome ham sandwich.
Downstairs, we couldn't resist the meatball godfather. Holy god. In a soft bun, firstly breaded and deep fried aubergine slices covered the base of the bun. 3 meatballs, sliced in half and topped with red sauce went on top of that. Another slice of aubergine followed, with hot peppers (which were really freaking hot) softened with onions and mushrooms. More red sauce. Then the lid. It was bigger than my face.
Back at ground floor level, Buster's Sea Cove offers various fish in sandwich format or to serve it with salad, fries or rice, mostly under a tenner depending on what type of fish you choose. We opted for a sandwich - beautifully fried fish with tartare sauce and a little salad in thin, crisp bread. We also got grilled calamari that was dressed in a garlicky, lemon and parsley sauce. The squid took on the flavours of the charcoal grill, and was tender and smoky. The slaw was thankfully mayonnaise-free, and I was only sad we couldn't fit in a portion of fries as they looked like the skin-on, crispy, curly version. Who doesn't love curly fries? (Don't say you. Then we couldn't be friends.) Be warned; the market isn't open on Sundays or Mondays.
And finally, I had to indulge in my guilty pleasure. McDonald's fillet o' fish. But in Toronto they have DOUBLE fillet o' fish! Double deliciousness. Don't judge me.