Friday, May 18, 2012

Montreal Street Food

Street Food is illegal in Montreal.  Yes, you read that right.  In what is likely one of the strictest of all municipal food vendor laws, it is illegal to sell food anywhere that cars can pass on the same roadway.  Therefore you will only find mobile vendors in Montreal at festivals or anywhere a street is shut down for an event.  Even absent from the roads are the typical "chip truck" that so commonly hold all the street permits in many other major Canadian cities.  It is strange to think that not even poutine is acceptable street fare in this town.

But, among all the political and legal bullshit exists a small group of vendors and community members that are fighting to show that it's about time that the by-laws were changed.  With an inaugural street food lunch planned at Place Emilie-Gamelin this past week, I hit the road and met my little brother and his girlfriend for a day of food truck gluttony.

First stop had to be Grumman78.  This bright green taco truck has been a fixture at events around Montreal and has developed a loyal following.  When not out in the truck, they have been known to host popular "Taco Parties" at their headquarters (also were food prep is done) and have recently opened a food court location at Faubourg Ste-Catherine.

Grumman78's Pork Banh Mi Taco

Joining Grumman78 was Lucky's, Crepe-Moi and Pas d'cochon dans ma salon.  Lucky's colourful truck (pictured below) featured a menu of sandwiches and poutine made with many local ingredients.

Lucky's duck confit poutine (via @LuckysTruck MTL)

Lucky's lobster roll and Chicken with apricot chutney sandwich.

Pas d'cochon's set up is simple, yet practical.  They offer a menu highlighted by pulled pork, as well as other treats such as fresh oysters and salads. Looking closely, you can see the large homemade smoker in the back on the truck.

Pas d'cochon's lobster roll. Lots of filler, but the crunch of fresh asparagus was a welcome flavour and texture.
Crepe-moi's adorable yellow dessert truck offers both sweet and savory crepes, along with ice cream. The nutella/banana and dulce de leche crepes were devoured before pics could be taken!

While in town, I had to check out Grumman's Faubourg Ste-Catherine counter.  My brother explained that it's located in a food court "mall" that was intended to highlight global cuisines several years ago.  Some of the original vendors still exist in the food court, however it continues to be in transition at this time.  Don't let that lead you away from visiting Grumman's though, this location offers a larger selection of tacos and drinks compared to the truck.  Drinks are served as they would by many street a bag with a straw. 

Horchata and Jugo Verde.
Overall, Montreal has a long way to go compared to many other North American cities.  But they are well on their way to showing off the potential this city has for street food.  And I for one, am thankful that it's only a 2 hour drive from Ottawa.

Grumman78's taco logo is awesome.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Malaysian Street Food Bazaar

Thanks to some very observant friends, I found out about a Malaysian Street Food Bazaar being held at the Malaysian High Commission this past Saturday.  How could I resist?!  As boring as this government town can be, having all the Embassies in Ottawa does have it's perks sometimes.  So, with a couple hungry friends, I set out to explore the flavours of Malaysia.

Right off the hop, we were treated to the most amazing (and huge) dish of Rendang beef, rice and noodles.  I learned that Rendang is a dish traditional served at ceremonies or festivals to honour guests.  The beef is slow cooked in coconut milk and a myriad of spices.  As the coconut milk evaporates and the spices absorb, the beef begins to caramelize.  The result is a sweet and spicy "pulled" beef dish that was absolutely unbelievable.  I'm looking forward to trying this recipe out on my own.

Rendang: The best $5 we've ever spent.

Fanning the charcoal fire for the satays.
After polishing off some chicken satays, shrimp and a bowl of laksa, we needed a bit of a break and palate cleanser.  The Malaysian "ABC Shaved Ice" seemed to be the perfect answer.  ACB is short for Air Batu Campur - literally meaning "mixed ice".  A man was hand shaving large blocks of ice which was then packed into cups.  But not before an assortement of sweet corn, red beans and grass jelly (cincau) was spooned into the bottom of the dish.  The ice is then flavoured with colourful syrups and topped with condensed milk and peanuts.  A seemly random combination of flavour, yes, however quite enjoyable and refreshing. 


A very random spoonful of flavour and textures.
The Indian influence on Malaysian food was highlighted by two types of roti that were offered at the bazaar.  Roti Jala is formed when a thin batter is drizzled onto a hot griddle through a container with small holes in the bottom.  The result is a crepe-like roti that takes on the appearance of a thin funnel cake.  It's then rolled into a cylinder and served along side soups and stews.

Roti Jala being prepared.

Roti Canai is a stretched dough type of flatbread that is folded over vegetables or egg (called Roti Telur) and grilled in ghee until golden brown.  I unfortunately did not leave any room to try this dish, and the line was the longest of the festival.  Hoping I can track this roti down at one of the local restaurants!

Stretching the roti dough.

Shrimp and vermicelli topped w/hot peppers in a tamarind soy mixture.  Sweet rice and coconut "tamale".
After my friends left to get their hair done (I over street food, really??), I powered on through a couple more snacks.  Thankfully all vendors were offering their food in take out containers, so I was able to grab some to eat later.  I also picked up a load of deserts/pastries to bring to my hockey party potluck later that day.  Curiously, many of the desserts were coloured green.  With the flavours consistently banana and/or coconut, I could not determine the source or reason behind the colouration.  I would later learn that a traditional ingredient in Malay cooking is Pandan leaves, which leaves a green colour.  Pandan paste can be bought in many Asian specialty stores.

Sweet potato donuts and sweet rice/coconut balls infused with Pandan paste.

Overall, the best dish by far was the Rendang Beef.  Thankfully, it was made by the wonderful people at the Chahaya Malaysia Restaurant, so I look forward to visiting them for dinner in the future. If you'd like to check out some traditional Malaysian cuisine, they are located at1690 Montreal Rd in Gloucester.