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The Great Torontoist Challenge: Kensington Savoury Snack Edition

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Photo by Jon .
Torontoist loves a good stroll. In these late summer days, one of the more favourable strolling options is Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market. Provided you bring an ability to control your breathing against many an olfactory assault and sport a well-prepared munching arm, Kensington has also been deemed the prime venue to get your snack-on in Toronto. And so, with our noses prepared, a spring in our step, and a grumble in our tummies, we headed over to fair Baldwin Street for the Kensington Savoury Snack edition of The Great Torontoist Challenge.

The Contestants

For this challenge, we decided that we wanted to broaden our horizons and go beyond simply pitting several varieties of one very specific item against each other. Kensington’s snack offerings are diverse, from a vast spectrum of cultures, and we felt that this particular challenge needed to reflect that.
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  • Patty King Bakery’s Trini Double. Often with a lineup out the door, Patty King Bakery has become a Kensington Market staple for its Trinidadian take on the “chickpea sandwich.”
  • Moonbean’s Spinach and Feta Bureka. Though several different and tantalizing fillings were available, the panel decided that spinach and feta was the way to go for this Ottoman Empire originated flaky treat. Inevitably, any reference to the Ottoman Empire triggers a raucous round of “Istanbul, Not Constantinople,” which we felt added to the flavour of the experience.
  • Saigon Pearl’s BBQ Pork Bun. A traditional Chinese snack, the pork bun from one of Toronto’s critically acclaimed hidden gems was a must.
  • Perola’s Chicken Taco. Prepared fresh at the back of this long running Latin supermarket, Perola’s chicken taco is made to order by two lovely, though notably camera-shy, ladies.
  • Cobs’ Cheesymite Scroll. Evoking tear-filled, chest pounding nostalgia from our panel for their Aussie years, the Cheesymite Scroll is a spiral of baked bread with Vegemite and cheese baked in. That’s right. Vegemite. Mmmm.

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The Criteria

  • Ease of Ingestion. Can you walk and eat it at the same time without having to look at it?
  • Messiness. Are napkins and this snack mutually inclusive concepts?
  • Flavour: Does it taste good?
  • Snacking Satisfaction. Is it a large enough portion that the grumbles are gone? Do you feel an appropriate level of satiation, or conversely, do you more feel an urge to give up on walking and just lie down in the middle of Augusta Avenue?
  • Value. Not only based on cost, does the snack contain quality, fresh ingredients that give you that self-satisfied sense of “yeah, that was a toonie well spent!”

Additional Criteria

The only other thing we wanted to consider for this challenge was cost. A snack should be something you can buy with the change in your pocket—if it requires Interac, you need to step back.
Double ($1.25); Bureka ($1.95); BBQ Pork Bun ($2.00 for 3); Cheesymite Scroll ($2.25); Chicken Taco ($2.50).

Results

  • Ease of Ingestion. TIE: Double and Cheesymite Scroll—13/15. Patty King’s offering comes in a waxen-wrapper that is well built for travel, and the Cheesymite Scroll comes in an appropriately sized bag that allows for convenient crumb catching.
  • Messiness. BBQ Pork Bun—13/15. Saigon Pearl’s steamy bunnage requires no napkins at all; the only snack tested that can make such a claim.
  • Flavour. Double—14/15. Missing a perfect score due to one beloved yet jaded judge’s feeling that the bara left some room for deliciousness. Is there any such thing as perfection? *hand to forehead*
  • Snacking Satisfaction. Double—13/15. Just the perfect size, the Patty King double’s chickpea-ness makes this snack filling enough, without the risk of cramps from a brisk stroll through the vintage shops.
  • Value. Chicken Taco—13.5/15.The freshness of ingredients and variety of homemade garnishes make these tacos worth the wait.

Conclusions

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It must be noted that our bottom two contestants were not losers in the taste department. Perola’s Chicken Taco (above left), though with the lowest score of 60%, was, as noted above, a great value. Unfortunately, with a high leakage factor that is realistically spoon-compulsory, the taco would be best eaten in a sit down atmosphere. Unfortunately, not many people want to eat in the back of a supermarket, no matter how nice the taco ladies may be. Moonbean’s Bureka (above right) was also lovely, and yet was described by our judges as being an absolute disaster to eat while walking. The flakiness of the pastry added flavour points, but created a messiness that detracted from the full purpose of our study. The panel wants to make it noted, however, that Moonbean created a fantastic Bureka-consuming environment, with its circa-1950s style Hindi cowboy music that made us want to stop the stroll and have a sit.
Smack in the middle, Cobs’ Cheesymite Scroll (below left) may just be the best cure for a hangover that one member of our judging panel had ever encountered, what with its yeasty vitaminy goodness. That said, what’s so good about the Scroll can quickly turn sour when you hit the Vegemite blast; an unadulterated mouthful of this unfortunately coloured filling does nothing for your gag reflex. We also couldn’t help but note that for what it is, especially compared to the other contestants, the Cheesymite Scroll really doesn’t seem worth going beyond toonie-land.
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Of our two last contestants, Saigon Pearl’s BBQ Pork Bun (above right) definitely had the sweet plus savoury combination down pat and for us meat eaters, there is not much better than some Chinese style BBQ pork. Made fresh once ordered, and definitely the least messy of snacks, it was, however, noted to have a slightly “cheap” taste to it, which is no doubt exacerbated by the visual—an almost unnatural white bun and brilliant red barbecue meat & sauce filling
The definite winner, hands clasped together over their heads, was Patty King Bakery and their Trini Double with a score of 82%. With just the right hint of spice and that craving-worthy West Indian curry, the Double (pictured below) won out or tied in three of the five categories. Its flavour was close to flawless, and while you may have to wait in line, you know that what you’re getting is the right price, the right size and just right for a good stroll on a late summer day.
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Photos of our contestants by Julie Reitsma.

Comments

  • Chris Taylor

    No shawarma?!

  • guest

    No empanadas? No pupusas?

  • guest

    Yeah, you forgot the empanadas. That photo of Casa Acoreana? Turn your camera left about 90 degrees and you’re looking at a low-budget empanada place. Empanadas are $2.75 each and have your choice of about 20 different fillings, almost all of them quite tasty.

  • Julie Reitsma

    Oh I didn’t forget! I wanted the pupusas from Perola’s but they weren’t making them that day. So we went for tacos. We also only had room (realistically) for five entrants and we wanted to be culturally diverse – so no empanadas (though I do love empanadas – no empanada hate here). Lastly – Shawarmas, as far as I am concerned are way too filling to be a snack. In my humble opinion.

  • guest

    It’s a shame about the empanadas for sure.
    I’m a vegetarian (who doesn’t like marmite), so I’ve never tried most anything on this list. My choices for Kensington snacks are:

    1. an empanada
    2. a burrito
    3. apple delicious / samosa at moon bean
    4. (not exactly in Kensington) the Margherita slice at Massimo

    in no particular order.

  • guest

    if we could just keep the crackheads and cops out of kensington, it would be super.. like the good ‘ol days.