Canada - Scarborough, Ontario : ' Food trapped in time ' : A recipe for nostalgia. Strip malls in Toronto offer a treasure trove of multicultural cuisine.

At a tiny strip mall where the painted parking lines had faded completely some time ago, the chef at the New Kalyani restaurant effortlessly prepared one of the most exquisite treats in the Toronto area.

Pouring fermented batter into a small wok, he gripped the pan with both hands and swirled it four times in the air before laying it on a portable gas-burner.

Made to order, the resulting hopper, a classic Sri Lankan dish, appeared - a thin, lacy, bowl-shaped pancake that rose from a pillowy bottom to its delicately crispy edges.

''Most people don't know he makes hoppers to order,'' said Suresh Doss, a food writer, on a recent visit to the New Kalyani, which has no tables or chairs.

''When they're left to sit, they deflate, they crumble. The difference is night and day.

I've brought so many chefs from Toronto here, and they would eat it and go, 'This is the best thing I've eaten this year,' because this is so different from what you would have in the city.''

Toronto became the first Canadian city with its own Michelin guide last year and has 13 restaurants decorated with Michelin stars, mostly in fashionable neighborhoods like Yorkville.

But an alternative dining guide published by Mr. Doss casts a far wider net, finding and celebrating establishments in city's periphery - in the blocks surrounding the last subway stops, across the so-called inner suburbs like Scarborough or in the outer stretches of what is known as the Greater Toronto Area.

Most of the restaurants on Mr. Doss's list are mom-and-pops and walk-ins. Many lack seating, and are squeezed in aging, low-strung strip malls, next to coin laundromats or nail salons.

They are often little known by diners beyond their immigrant patrons, offering dishes that  -mixing memory and desire- spring from recipes that were popular in their owners' home countries decades ago.

A former tech worker turned culinary blogger, Mr. Doss, 45, reports on food for the Toronto Star and the CBC, the public broadcaster. His guides steers the hungry from places like the Jus Convenience Jerk Shop with ''insanely good'' oxtail to Lion City and its ''celebration of Singaporean hawker fare.''

Then there's Monasaba, a Yemeni place with the ''best mandi'' [a blend of meat, rice and spices] in the region, and Mamajoun, an Armenian eatery with a menu based on ''grandparents' recipes.''

''Food trapped in time is what I call it,'' Mr. Doss said recently. ''Food is constantly evolving. But when you have food tied to immigration, it becomes much more than just food. It becomes nostalgia. It has to be trapped because changing it wouldn't make sense.''

The World Students Society thanks author Norimitsu Onishi.


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