Udupi Palace

Little India Food Tour with the Culinary Adventure Company

On a very chilly winter evening we went down to Gerrard Street East in Toronto to warm ourselves up with a spicy Little India food tour. This was my Christmas present from Emma, which was very generous of her considering that Indian cuisine is not her favourite!

The tour was run by the Culinary Adventure Company, who run food tours in many Toronto districts, culinary adventures, classes and events. We met up with our excellent guide, Kevin, at the Lahore Tikka House. We were joined by another couple, who had done the tour a few years before, and had enjoyed it so much that they came back for more. So it was a bit like a mystery dinner party, as we were thrown in to a situation where we needed to socialise with people we’d never met before!

But with Kevin having visited Emma’s beloved Milton Keynes and with the parents of the male half of the other couple hailing from Wigan, we had plenty of British and Canadian common ground on which to talk about. It was all going well until I dared to suggest that there were some similarities between Canada and the USA…*mistake*.

Anyway, to the actual food. We tucked into delicious chicken, lamb and beef kebabs, and garlic and plain naan breads at the Lahore Tikka House. These were washed down with one of my favourite drinks, a mango lassi (no dogs were harmed in the making of this drink).

Before we left, we got a chance to see the kitchen, where they cut off pieces from a massive mound of dough, before then shaping them into a naan bread and then cooking them in the tandoor oven.

Lahore Tikka House
A mango lassi and inside the kitchen, with its tandoor ovens, at the Lahore Tikka House

If we had thought that the interior of the Lahore Tikka House was unusual (big open plan room with rows of long tables shared with other diners – think Wagamama’s) compared to our standard British curry house, then our next stop, the Udupi Palace, was different again.

The Udupi Palace is a vegetarian curry house, but it is set in a former grocery store just below street level. Combined with some basic table and chairs, the restaurant felt quite sparse, and there was an air of community centre or bingo hall rather than curry house. Clearly the food is much more important than the decor!

Here we were lucky enough to go into the kitchen. We watched a cook make a giant Indian crepe, called a dosa, which once cooked is rolled into a cone and partially filled with a spicy potato and onion mixture. I was then offered the chance to make my own dosa, and despite a few language issues, I made a pretty good effort considering it was my first go. We decided to have it with that typical Indian condiment of Nutella. You can check out my dosa making skills in the video below (or you can watch here).

We were also treated here to some bhatura, a leavened bread, which we watched being deep fried and was accompanied by a delicious curried chickpea mixture.

Making a dosa
How the professionals do it
Udupi Palace
The Udupi Palace. Anticlockwise: selection of spices; a deep-frying bhatura; my dosa with Nutella (there was more inside, although not enough for our liking); and the cook’s dosa (the cone) and finished bhaturas.

By now we were getting a bit full, but we had only done 2 of our 5 stops! Next up though was MotiMahal, an Indian fast food joint, with the idea being that we got to sample a variety of takes on Indian cuisine.

Here we revisited the bhaturas, but which this time came in nacho size along with yoghurt, a coriander sauce, some spicy red sauce and chickpeas. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t my favourite, so after a couple of mouthfuls, I decided to save myself for the next stop.

Indian fast food at the MotiMahal
Indian fast food at the MotiMahal

Our final restaurant was the New Haandi 2000, which sounds a bit like something out of a 1980s sci-fi film. Of all the restaurants, this one felt the most like a curry house that we’d be accustomed to in the UK. The main attraction here was butter chicken, which I got the sense enjoys a similar level of stardom as chicken tikka does in the UK. The butter chicken was very good, and was accompanied by some equally good popadoms and naan breads, whilst Emma enjoyed trying out the bhindi do-pizza (which isn’t a pizza, but spiced okra).

Cheetah lager
Cheetah lager was on offer at the New Haandi 2000.

We were full in the knowledge that we still had a fifth place to visit, and we had no idea how we would manage to eat anything more at this point! However, this final stop was actually designed to help us with what had gone before. We went into the place next door, which was like a newsagent, but that also specialises in paan. The paan is actually a leaf, which is filled with a variety of ingredients – honey, jam (the guy tried telling us it was bats’ blood!), fennel seeds and a variety of other things that I can’t remember from the panic of realising that this weird thing was going to be going in my mouth.

Making paan
Our paans are made for us

Once made, you stick it inside your cheek, and slowly chew around its edges, so that you get all the juices flowing out. The idea is that the combination of ingredients helps ease the stomach after vast quantities of spicy Indian food. It was actually quite nice at first when it was all juicy, but after a while it became a brown mush!

Eating paan
Emma just about forces the paan into her mouth before demonstrating that she really doesn’t like it very much.

It was an excellent night out, and we enjoyed eating the leftovers the next day!

Stewart

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6 thoughts on “Little India Food Tour with the Culinary Adventure Company

  1. Wow. Now that’s a tour! I can’t imagine you guys ate so many different foods in one night. But I also like the idea of a food tour like this alot! Might have to add it to my own to-do list!

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    1. It was a lot of fun and we went into so many places we wouldn’t have looked twice at otherwise. I’d definitely recommend it.

      We were so full by the end of it though, certainly ate too much in the first place we went to. Will learn to pace ourselves next time!

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  2. We went on this tour in November and are so glad we did! We’re still talking about it. We’ve done a number of tours will the Culinary Adventure Company. It’s becoming one of our favorite things in Toronto.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it too! We’d not done a food tour before so we weren’t sure what to expect but we were not disappointed. Which other tours of theirs would you recommend? We’d really love to try another one.

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  3. We loved the Ossington tour, interesting history involved as well. We also liked the Baldwin Village one. Chef Scott said he lives in the Little Italy area which made that one unique with lots of “insider” info and contacts. My next goal is to do the Canoe Paddling and Dining Adventure to the Toronto Islands.

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    1. Ooh will have a look at those then. We love Italian food so I think the Little Italy tour will be high up on the list! The Canoe adventure sounds great too. There’s just too much choice!

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