South Asian

South Asian

In Scarborough, we are treated to the rich cultural smorgasbord of South Asia’s many regions and foods. From the savoury vegetables of Gujarat, to the coconut infused gravies of Tamil foods, and the aromas of mustard oil and cumin of Bengal, there is no shortage of South Asia’s expressions of diverse cuisines--many fashioned from similar ingredients--within a few short kilometres of each other. We can taste the sambal and hoppers of Tamil cuisine, and a short drive later, Goan vindaloo, and finish with the gushing sweetness of the pan-regional gulab jamun. Access to foods year-round in the city’s many South Asian grocery stores--often catered to capture each region’s cuisines--also means that the rainy season’s foods may be eaten in the winter, and the summer’s bounty can be enjoyed heartily in the autumn. 

We have chosen a few key dishes that suggest how vast the picture of South Asian food in our city is. Each dish invites tasting other dishes that pair well with it, or cognate foods across regions that do similar things with different ingredients (e.g. different flatbreads) or different dishes with the same ingredients (e.g. lentils). Every region’s cuisine, too, suggests its community’s different stories of migration, faith, and worldview.

Dishes

Biriyani

Whether in a South Asian restaurant or a family dinner, whether it’s on a plate or in a styrofoam box ready for take out, a brief waft of masala spices always fills the air announcing its arrival. Containing histories of ... View More or Locate

Dosa

When the perfectly rolled and immaculately buttered dosa is brought out to your table, and placed in front your fingers jittering with excitement, it’s tempting to think of this dish as that quintessential crêpe.

But on closer inspection—if you’re patient, ... View More or Locate

Gulab Jamun

In the minds and mouths of many migrants, these spheres of syrupy milk solids invoke more than the burst of sweet rosewater every bite unravels. Gulab jamun is celebration--a family gathering, a bridal shower, a religious event.

When gulab jamun ... View More or Locate

String Hoppers

In the right hands, rice flour expresses a culture’s creativity. From sprout to grain and amorphous dough, it reaches across the paddy toward the mountains and fields of the Asian continent, the shores of the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, ... View More or Locate

Vindaloo

Vindaloo isn’t just an exceptionally spicy curry; it expresses story, like language. Depending on who you’re talking to, and where you’re talking about it, vindaloo could mean different things. Vindaloo also tells stories--of world travel, of migration, of religion, and ... View More or Locate

South Asian

Culture

A colourful palette of spices is common within the many dishes of South Asia, but each region paints its own personality through the ingredients and techniques used.

For example, Punjabi cuisine, one of the earliest introductions of South Asian food in Scarborough, is known for creamier and thicker gravies with lighter flavours. Bengali cuisine is characterized by cumin and mustard oil, and fragrant coconut is infused within Tamil curries.

Here, a welcoming is extended to the many peoples of the area, where kitchens are opened to engage communities in the histories and complexities of flavours.

South Asian

History

Earliest forms of what Toronto has come to call Indian food is primarily rooted in Punjabi cuisine and the restaurants of Delhi. Butter chicken, and the naan and kebabs of northern India are still commonly found in Scarborough and across North America as popular Indian foods. But a shift in immigration policies in the 1960s would open the doors to South Asians from many regions including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Gujarat, Kerala, Goa, and Tamil Nadu. Each group would bring their distinct cuisines and flavours, but in the cases of several establishments in Scarborough, could cross regional, national, and continental borders as well. “Indo-Pak” restaurants would emerge, as well as Tamil shops that include populations and flavours on the subcontinent and on islands. “East and West Indian” shops, despite the owners’ place of origin, gesture towards recognizing the nature of Asian cultures in Scarborough: the emergence of a Global Asia.