30 June 2011

Not your mama's tacos: Montreal's pseudo-street food

My buddy GG treated me to these tasty buggers yesterday from the smiling truck painted booger-green:

[Pork taco and Banh Mi pork taco from Grumman 78]

Oh how I had longed for a taste of Grumman 78 since I first caught a glimpse of the repurposed milk truck many, many moons ago... It's the closest we'll get yet to real street food here, and we all know how awesome street food is.

[The awesome smiling Grumman 78 truck! Note the smiling owner waving at me!]

Earlier this week, the Journal Métro touched on why Montreal city street food hasn't seen the light of day for 60 years, like they currently do in other North American metropolises -- even its rival down the 401!

Though focused on the Grumman 78 enterprise, the article raised a few issues that have previously fallen to deaf ears at Montreal's City Hall. Citing hygiene and "aesthetics" as prime deterrents of allowing street food (not to mention impinging on restaurant businesses, as this city has one of the highest ratios of restaurants per resident), they'll only maybe-perhaps-possibly consider letting mobile food dispensaries in public parks as a pilot project. So far, pop-up food stands are only allowed at city-sanctioned events (i.e. Osheaga, Jazz Fest, holiday celebrations, the list goes on).

Consider the growing number of Montreal "street" food ventures like the Fruixi (bike-hitched fresh fruits and vegetables), or the multipurpose Müvbox, one would believe that the city would seize the opportunity to cash in on "more of the new", rather than play the stuffed shirt card and go the way of the pinball machine1.

[Fruixi in the fruit flesh; photo from]

Spacing Montreal's discussion presents some fine global exhibits of street food abroad. There's street food in some hygienically questionable places in China, India (BOTH STILL HAVE THE BUBONIC PLAGUE!) and even hyper-clean cities like Singapore — there's no real reason for the absence of this from our urban landscape!

Optimistically, it might be a matter of time before City Hall bows to public demand for more and better food available at street level, unless it really wants to end up as the last duckling in the line that gets squashed under the tires of the fast-moving truck that is our ever-important food culture.

I digress. And this entry is already way too long.
1 This example is not unlike how former Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau successfully crusaded for the ban of pinball machines in 1956 in the city. Soon after after Chicago and New York City say that "pinball is a-ok" did Montreal finally lift the ridiculous by-law in 1977.

24 June 2011

Maple syrup makes the world go 'round

The general rule is, when you go sugar shacking, i.e. maple syrup hunting, you need to like maple syrup. You need to like maple syrup because you will drench everything in this sweet Canadian liquid gold*.

[Just looking at the bowl of oreilles de crisse is clogging my arteries.]

Acériculture (I don't think there actually is an English word for it) is bigass industry in Quebec. And this fact, we celebrate by dangerously coming close to inducing adult onset diabetes with the all-you-can-eat formula at our beloved cabanes à sucre.

[A bucket collecting maple sap from a tap. Pretty interesting, especially because it resembles a bucket collecting water but is not!]

Typical sugar shack fare includes maple syrup with a side of baked beans, fluffy omelette, ham, bacon, cretons, sausage, pancakes, followed by homemade doughnuts, and/or maple sugar pie or just plain sugar pie with maple syrup juice.

[Aformentioned homemade doughnuts and maple sugar tartlets.]

(Er, I know my post is much too late in the season for anyone who wants to experience this diabetes-invoking* activity (especially cause it's already la Fête de la St-Jean), but you can make these deep fried pancakes (puffed doughnuts) yourself at home. Recipe below...)

Deep fried pancakes (crêpes frites), AKA beignes soufflées 

2.5 to 3 cups (600 to 750ml) flour
1/2 tsp (2ml) salt
2 to 3 Tbs (30 to 45ml) baking powder
2 Tbs (30ml) sugar
3 Tbs (45ml) butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 to 1.5 cup (250 to 325ml) milk or water (room temperature)
1/4 tsp (1ml) vanilla (optional but delicious)
oil for frying
  1. Make room in stomach.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. 
  3. In another bowl, mix together the milk or water, melted butter, and sugar. 
  4. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Whisk this batter using a whisk until your hands feel like jelly, which should take anywhere between 15 seconds (wimps) to 2 minutes (contenders).
  5. Heat oil to about 150C (300F) in a vessel large with sufficient room so that doughnuts can float. 
  6. Drop the dough into the oil in large dollops, either with a large spoon or some piping mechanism and fry until they float and are golden. Remove from oil onto a dish lined with absorbent paper towels.
  7. Repeat the frying method (step 6.) for the remainder of the batter.
  8. Once cooled, coat or sprinkle with icing sugar, or soak in maple syrup.
TIP: For larger yield, make smaller dollops and/or hide them  from gluttonous siblings.

I'm not sure why but most of mine turned out shaped like stomachs -- maybe because they know precisely where they're heading!

Bonne St-Jean!!

*YES I know maple syrup is also manufactured in parts of the US. But to us, it's as Canadian as BIXI, and Kiefer Sutherland.

**If required, wear elastic waistband pants.

13 June 2011

Little Britain in Montreal*

(*Apologies, but sadly there is no Matt Lucas or David Williams here.)

The next time your smuggled deep-fried fish** gets confiscated at airport customs from your luggage on your way home from the UK because you couldn't resist sharing the lovely flakes of fish with your friends and family here back home, great news! You can take a deliciously deep-fried lump of fish and crispy chips home from right here, in Old Montreal!

[Haddock in maple syrup batter to the left; cod in Burgundy Lion batter to the right. Oh yes.]
Tucked away at the edge of Old Montreal, in the former McGill Hog Dog diner spot, Brit & Chips is Montreal's answer to the staple UK take-away food, complete with artery-clogging tartar sauce and the lemon wedge designed to fit entirely in your mouth.
[Good-looking take-away boxes and the contents about to get eaten! (cw from the top: haddock, cod and salmon).]

Run, don't walk, down to this chippy if you're in the hood. Oh and maybe shell out a measly $11 bucks for some fish and chips while you're there!

Brit & Chips
433 Rue Mcgill

** Thanks to the peeps at the Darkside HK, I have been enlightened to this "delicacy" of a fried fish practice in some part of China that will cause me to have nightmares for years to come. As if dreaming about talking sandwiches wasn't already disturbing enough!

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