Udupi Madras Café
With a few millennia of vegetarian cooking behind them, the people of Madras and Udupi, on central India’s east and west coasts, have learned a thing or two. Like how to build huge flavours out of a legume as unassuming as chickpeas, for instance, or to make exquisite mashed potatoes, and to bake some of the planet’s most neuron-tripping breads. This little spot in the shadow of Mississauga’s iconic Marilyn Monroe towers does all those things and then some. The channa batura, a chickpea stew served with spicy-puckery mango pickle and chopped onion, is an incredible opener, particularly when you scoop it up with handfuls of steaming, deep fried whole wheat bread. The thali plate is one of the GTA’s finest; it’s worth ordering extra rava kesari, a sublime carrot, cashew and saffron-based dessert, to go. The dosas, however – enormous, stuffed Indian crepes – are the restaurant’s greatest accomplishment. Try the chili onion rava dosa, a lacy, crispy crepe with spices and aromatics in the batter, stuffed with supremely buttery potato mash and frisky chili landmines. You can also get un-spicy versions, or dosas stuffed with chocolate or mozzarella and ketchup (see “Kid’s Corner” on the menu) if that’s your thing. 265 Enfield Place, Mississauga, 905-277-0010, udupimadrascafe.com
Indian Sweet Master Veg and Non Veg Restaurant
There are just two things that you have to order here. The first is the street-food sensation called chaat papri – Northern Indian and Pakistani-style nachos. Chaat papri is made from deep-fried chips, chili-kissed chickpeas, chopped onion, green chutney, cool, tangy yogurt and mango masala. It is sloppy, tangy, gently spicy and crunchy, silky smooth and deliriously tasty. Have that, and have the fish pakoras. The pakoras’ batter is deep brown and crisp and studded with chilis and coriander. The white fish inside it is fat, moist, beautifully seasoned. That’s fish and chips, in case you haven’t noticed yet. To my mind, they’re the greatest fish and chips in the GTA. 503 Ray Lawson Blvd., Brampton, 905-450-2800, indiansweetmaster.com
Uyghur cooking from China’s far northwestern corner doesn’t get nearly the love around North America that other Chinese cuisines do. Consider though, that two of the predominantly Muslim region’s most cherished foodstuffs are charcoal-grilled lamb skewers with cumin, and thick, hand-pulled wheat-flour noodles. If the extraordinary food at Silk Road, a cheap, slightly down-at-the-heels and not entirely hospitable (the service can be brusque) mom and pop in Etobicoke is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before Uyghur cooking (it’s pronounced WEE-gur) hits it big. The lamb noodle soup, built on wobbly, gently gamey lamb meat and fat, firm, earthy-tasting noodles, is the killer dish here. The clear but complex broth has red chili and pungent black pepper in it, as well as star anise, loads of fresh coriander, smoky, toasted sesame seeds and puckery red goji berries. Reservations highly recommended. 438 Horner Ave., Etobicoke, 416-259-9440, no web.
Anatolia serves Turkish food just like you get it in Turkey: fat, glossy-crusted pide breads, creamy hummus and walnut dip, superb beef and herb-covered lacmajun pizzas. The Iskender kebab, a yogurt-spiked beef dish that comes dusted with sumac and paprika, was so good it nearly brought a Turkophile friend of mine to tears. The unexpected star, though: the paper-thin skinned manti – pasta dumplings stuffed with lamb and topped with mint and citrusy sumac. They could put many an Italian nonna to eternal shame. There is Pernod-like iced rakı to drink, as well as sour cherry juice, and baklava for dessert. The service
is polished and extremely friendly. 5112 Dundas St. W., Etobicoke, 416-207-0596, anatoliarestaurant.com
Chef and owner Lillian Ow cooks real-deal Sing-Malay food at this nearly 20-year-old Mississauga institution, with all the sweets, sours and funky, fishy flavours that make the polyglot island nations’ cuisines such a profoundly addictive force. The popiah, spring rolls of a sort that come stuffed with refreshing sweet yam, poached shrimp and hoisin sauce, are a gentle way to start a meal here. The beef rendang, a wicked-savoury curry, is also excellent. The rojak, a green mango, pinapple and cucumber salad that’s tossed with dried jellyfish and peanuts, gets deep-savoury pong from fermented shrimp paste; the taste is well worth acquiring. The desserts are all fun, no funk. Try the boboh cha cha (it’s sweet potato mixed with palm sugar and coconut milk). And if you’re trailing children, do not skip the ice kachang, a gaudy-coloured shaved ice assemblage that’s just exotic enough to help you forgive the ensuing sugar craze. 1177 Central Parkway West, Mississauga, 905-281-0860, lioncityrestaurant.ca