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dare me...

  • j

I'm tired of the usual. I want the strange and the unique... the foods other people find intimidating to try for the first time, but once tried, can't live without. I want to take my food adventures to the next level.

Tell me what, tell me where (driving distance of GTA), and tell me how to order it and I'll be there. I only draw the line at things that are still alive... for now.

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  1. My favourite unfamiliar food moment was about a year or so ago when I had been shopping at the Highland Farms on Ellesmere in Scarborough. In the same little plaza is a place called Hopper Hut. I had no idea what a hopper was, but decided to go in and order some - as if I'd been doing it my entire life. Imagine my surprise when I received a takeout container (I didn't want to have to eat this in public, just in case) with a selection of these cup-shaped pancakes that held a)a fried egg; b)milk; and c)nothing. There was a little packet of some kind of spicy coconut condiment to go with it. Actually the whole business was quite delicious (except for the egg one which I didn't eat - but that was a personal matter). In addition to the hoppers, nothing else on the menu sounded familiar either - next time I go there, I'll order another mystery dish.

    Hopper Hut. Sri Lankan food - very interesting. Try it.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Nyleve

      I just wrote about hoppers the other day. Hopperhut is not the best place, Rashnaa is better, and Jamie Kennedy on the Gardiner does a good version of it (by a sri lankan cook) but it's very expensive. The coconut condiment is often called Coconut sambal, It's a mix of onion, sometimes maldive fish, and coconut with pureed chlies (there are different varieties of this)

      www.spotlighttoronto.com/musings for the full article.

      1. re: Suresh

        Mmmmm! Looking forward to trying Rashnaa out. So it's Parliament and Wellesley right? Do they have Pittu too? Hate having to make the trek up to Scarborough to get the good stuff! Any other Sri Lankan places closer to Downtown or in the Parliament/Wellesley area?

        1. re: icpaprika

          Yesh Rashnaa has pittu. their masala dosa is fantastic, as is the biryani....the vattalappam...the gulab jamun...the kothu rotti...the string hoppers...the vadei...
          Really, if you like this type of cuisine, they nail it.

    2. Surely you've tried the Quack and Track already at La Palette.

      1. Hoppers. Thanks for the tip. Is the texture similar to injera? Sounds awesome, I'll give it a go this weekend!

        Quack and Track... one of my favs. I've had a hard time getting people to try it, but once they do, they love it.

        ps... if anyone knows of a good place to get nem chua (vietnamese raw pork), I'd love to hear of it as well.

        Keep the suggestions coming!

        5 Replies
        1. re: jamsy

          Hoppers are more in the chopped up noodle/spatzle line. And much better texture than most injera I've found in Toronto. I find the Hoppers at Rashnaa (Church near Wellesley) better than at the Hopper Hut - and Rashnaa has a wider selection of dishes too.
          Fat Cat (on Eglinton @ Avenue Road) often has interesting 'specials' e.g. lamb sweetbreads, brains and haggis. But you have to be lucky or call ahead.

          1. re: estufarian

            The hoppers I had - which may be different than what you're describing - are more like a crisp-ish pancake formed into a sort of cup shape, into which is cooked either an egg or some milk or, well, nothing at all. There was also something on the menu at Hopper Hut called "string hoppers" which I have no idea what they are. And they had other stuff too. I got a little discombobulated standing there on line while I tried to figure out what to order, so just ordered one of the hopper combos, figuring at a place called Hopper Hut you get the hoppers.

            Anyway, I am in no way suggesting that Hopper Hut is the be-all and end-all for hoppers in Toronto. There may very well be better ones. I have only had them once. And to be honest, I was so surprised at what they turned out to be - I don't know what I was expecting. Rabbits? Crickets? - that I don't even know if I liked them or not.

            1. re: Nyleve

              Must admit I didn't notice the distinction between 'hopper' and 'string hopper'. Indeed, I had string hopper at both. (and Suresh describes them below much more perfectly than I did).
              Incidentally another dish to try at Rashnaa (yes, at Parliament - really messed up my original response) is kottu rotti.

            2. re: estufarian

              A small correction to your post:

              Rashnaa is on Wellesley at Parliament


            3. re: jamsy

              Have you had the nem chua from Nguyen Huong (chinatown and Scarborough locations)?

            4. String hoppers are the Sri Lankan equilvalent of Rice flour vermicelli noodles. the noodles are made with rice flour (brown), salt, water and bread flour, strained through a vermicelli press and then steamed on these mats with trivets to drain the water.

              In the end you have a very soft noodle like pancake which is usually served in the mornings with Coconut sambal, Daal, Curry bits, Sothi (rice or potatoe pureed curry, very thin and tasty, usually with onion and tomato bits)

              Hopper hut has established a name over the last decade for being the 'local access' restaurant for these kinds of dishes. Most Sri Lankan families that buy large quantities of Stringhoppers go to some shops on Sheppard just west of Mccowan. I wish I could remember the name. There's also another really popular shop at Middlefield and Finch, north east corner. I used to go ther all the time for the Stringhoppers/Channa and pakoras. they also used to sell $25 samosas there..

              2 Replies
              1. re: Suresh

                The place at Middlefield and Finch is Samosa King, and you'll find lots of posts about their amazing samosas. I drive out of my way for these, like many, and buy them in lots of 20 - 50 at a time. They make for great weekend eating, and at 5 for $1 it is an excellent deal as well. IMHO, these are the best samosa's I've had. I haven't had their other food...yet. If Jamsy is looking for adventure, they have a huge selection of what looks like Indian sweets of just about every colour and texture. That could be an adventure in itself...along with an insulin shot. They also have an eat-in restaurant next to the bakery.

                I've been to Hopper Hut. They were covered on CBC Radio's Beyond Burgers segment. I've not tried their Hopper's yet, but thanks to the excellent description above, I will now. When I stop there, I get their Madras Dosai to go. I love it. The inner decor leaves little to desire however.

                1. re: dinin and dishin

                  Thanks, my cousins are married to Indian guys, so I'm really familiar with Indian food as well.

                  For Indian sweets, definitely check out Mistaan at McNicoll (near Gordon Baker Rd). My cousin brought me there years ago, and I still go back whenever I have a craving for Rasmalai and mango barfi. Their samosas aren't as cheap, but really tasty too. Regular food is pretty good and pretty cheap for takeout as well. Most expensive thing on the menu is biryani ($7.99). www.mistaan.com

              2. Hmmm - how about a weekend drive (or train) to Montreal for Poutine avec Foie Gras at Au Pied du Couchon ?! YUM :-)

                On a more realistic GTA note - go for dessert one night at Habitat (Queen St W @ Tecumseh (I think)), order the "Chocolate experience" (can be shared between two for a light dessert) and a tawny port. It's 5 morsels of 'grand cru' chocolate each served with a unique flavour (I don't really want to give it all away here) - 4/5 I had NEVER thought of eating with chocolate and loved. If you get lucky, they have a small lounge space with 4 comfy leather lounge chairs that is the perfect place to kick back and enjoy this incredible taste experience!

                1 Reply
                1. re: jcanncuk

                  Poutine avec Foie Gras... oh, I must get myself some. Heart attack waiting to happen, for sure, but something tells me that I'll be making a road trip to Montreal in the next couple of months!

                  You've got me curious about the "choc experience"... I've had choc with foie gras at Susur. Interesting, but it didn't quite work, maybe because I like my foie gras a lot more than I like chocolate, and all I could think was "what a waste!"

                2. I'd recommend some balut. Filipino fetal duck egg. totally surreal and quite tasty despite that.


                  1. The world needs more adventurous eaters! Here is a thread I started on a similar topic a short while ago:


                    1. How about snake soup? As the weather gets colder, chinese (cantonese)restaurants will start to serve snake soup. It is believed by the chinese that the snake is a "warm your insides" dish. It actually tastes quite tame, but I have a hard time getting any of my friends to try it. It is sometimes served with chrysanthamum petals, which provides a refreshing herbal note to the rich tasting soup.

                      1. lol... I think I forgot to mention that I'm asian, so things like snake soup, fetal duck eggs, frog sperm, swallow spit have been part of my diet since childhood!

                        My most memorable Chow experience was in small town Mexico (pop. 12,000) where we had absolutely no idea what we were ordering all the time. Point to something on the menu, and next thing you know, plates of mystery meat are brought to the table. My fave - grilled sweetbreads (I think) wrapped in a maize tortilla and smothered with homemade guac, salsa, and "mystery" chilli sauce.

                        1. oh!!! why didn't you say so! alright, how about one of my all time faves: marrow bones and toast. My mom makes this pot-au-feu with beef bones and the marrow is quite possibly one of my favourite things in the world!

                          1. I would consider a "must try" the beef penis sold at the Galleria Supermarket (Korean) at 7171 Yonge above Steeles)

                            1. No way! Is it cooked? Otherwise, I would have no idea on how to prepare that dish! I love that prepared food section at the back of the supermarket... always come away with a box of those roasted crabs.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jamsy

                                Nope, it's either raw or frozen, not sure which..loved the cooked bulgogi from there, the kitchen retained the aroma for days after I reheated it..I'll try the crabs, are they there every day?

                              2. Hm... not sure I'd be likely to bring that home and cook it myself.

                                Yes. I usually head over to Galleria Saturday lunchish, and I've always seen the crabs there along with the assortment of savoury tidbits (i.e. flatfish, fish roe, wakame, marinated soy beans etc).

                                Also check out the far end of the food court where they do the "sushi" rolls and the soondae. Occasionally, they have "kim sandwiches" (I have no idea what they're really called), but they are triangles of rice with tuna, bbq chicken, bibimbop, etc wrapped with a piece of kim. It takes a bit to figure out how to assemble, but they're great!