A taste of CDN
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 6 juillet 2011
I’ve strolled down New York’s Park Avenue munching Sabrett hot dogs. I’ve sipped margaritas while drifting along Bourbon Street in New Orleans. And I’ve slurped chowder perched on the edge of San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
But I haven’t done any of those things in Montréal… because Montréal doesn’t have street food. Sadly, our street food vendors are long gone.
A wonderful definition is given in the series, Caribbean Street Food, published by Macmillan: “…street food comprises all edible matter from: stalls, tents or other temporary structures; carts, trolleys, vans or station wagons or other wheeled things; and baskets, buckets, bags, trays or other articles of conveyance used by an individual… Basically, once there’s no sit-down option (pavements excepted), then it’s street food.”
So, we decided to revive at least the spirit of street food by wandering and eating our way along Victoria in the heart of the Côte-des-Neiges district. While there are no true street food vendors there, we treated the restaurants we stopped at as though they were. Only one rule: The “edible matter” had to be easily hand-held while walking, or sitting, upon the sidewalk (street!).
We started at Victoria and MacKenzie with patties from Spicees. Beef, chicken and vegetable. $1.25 each. Warm and flakey pastry, beautifully and lightly spiced. Great start! Right across the street: The Caribbean Curry House for a delicious goat roti ($7.75) and that most Caribbean of drinks, coconut water, although we had to drink it from a can as there are no coconut trees in the area. If you don’t gobble, the patties and roti will get you as far as Basha, a Lebanese restaurant at the corner of Plamondon. We chose a pita loaded with chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, garlic sauce and a homemade turnip recipe. Delicious but messy. Eat it out of its paper wrapper. $4.27 tax included.
Once at Van Horne take a side trip east to two great street food-type places. There’s Cité Cachèr which is primarily a grocery store but has a terrific bakery in the back. They make a wonderfully light and fluffy thing called a pastel. It’s very finely mashed potato formed into a ball, filled with minced beef (or minced tuna) and lightly fried. $2.00 each. The other is Bahay Kubo featuring Philippine dishes. There’s a display case with several items but we tried three: Maruya ($1.75), mashed banana fried with flour and eggs; Turon ($1.00), fried plantain and jackfruit; and Karyuka ($1.85), rice flour balls, fried with coconut and caramel-coated on a stick. Hint: Save the Karyuka for dessert.
Farther south at 5987 is Dev, a northern Indian restaurant. Their vegetarian samosa is tightly packed with potato, green peas, chick peas, fresh onion and Indian spices. A large one is practically a meal in itself. It’s served with a sweet, slightly spicy, sauce. $1.14 tax included. When you get to de la Peltrie look for Sariling Atin, the Philippine restaurant at number 5940. We had four small pork sausages ($3.50) whose juices ooze out when steamed. They’re quite sweet, very dense and have a slightly burnt taste; but they’re not. A different and unusual, but most interesting, taste experience.
Now here’s an untypical-for-the-area name for you: Mother’s Choice Bakery at 5889-A where I couldn’t resist Bubble Tea. You can have it made with one of a long list of fruits but I wanted to be “exotic” and chose taro. Fresh, fruity, cold and refreshing. We sucked up the tea and nibbled on a stick of pastilles. Never had Bubble Tea? You have to! (It’s not really tea, you know). We’re almost at Côte-Sainte-Catherine Road and #5710, Cuisine de Manille, for a warm Siopao, a ball of steamed, light dough containing pork and a hard-boiled egg. Peel off the plastic wrap and enjoy a new treat.
A Sri Lankan friend, upon hearing of our street food walk, said we had to drop into the Sri Lankan Restaurant Jolee (5495) for Chinese Rolls. No one seems to know why they’re called that but for fans of the “rolls” category of food this is a must-try. Our wanderings ended at the Vietnamese Hoài Hu’o’ng, 5485 near St. Kevin. They’re more of a full-service restaurant but we couldn’t pass up their spring rolls. Two oversized ones cost $5.25.
So, next time you’re in the neighbourhood, pretend Victoria is lined with street food vendors and sample these, and other, restaurants. You’ll like some things more than others but we’re not playing critic here. We’re playing “let’s pretend,” as we did when we were children. Let’s pretend street food has returned to Montréal. And maybe, one day, pretend will become real!
(Three hints before starting out: Don’t eat breakfast, bring extra napkins and carry lots of loonies, toonies and fives.)
[ Paul Shubin ]