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culture

Spice City Toronto: Sri Lanka Comes to Queen Street

Sri Lankan cuisine has tended to be hard to find downtown, until now.

Mulligatawny soup and kottu roti, from Saffron Spice Kitchen.

Toronto is fortunate to have some great Sri Lankan food, but it’s not easy to find downtown. Aside from a few Sri Lankan places around Parliament, like Rashnaa, you have to head up to Markham and Scarborough to try the cuisine, which is perhaps best described as a labour intensive, spicier version of Indian food, but with dozens of its own unique dishes. However, one Sri Lankan family is bucking the trend by opening up a Sri Lankan take-out spot right on Queen Street West at Spadina Avenue.

In August, Saffron Spice Kitchen opened up at 459 Queen Street West. It’s run by the family that runs Esther’s Soup Kitchen (Queen of Soups) at Cumberland Terrace at Yonge and Bloor streets. It’s a venture run in part by Esther, a Tamil woman hailing originally from Colombo, and her nephew Jacob.

There are several soups of the day available, of course, including a mulligatawny soup, an Anglo-Indian spiced classic served with hefty chunks of chicken, carrot and celery.

But the star of the show here is the kottu roti. I recently visited Sri Lanka, and in the evenings there you hear the chop/chop/chop sounds of this dish being made on the street. It’s prepared by chopping the morning’s stale roti bread on a flat grill, throwing on heaps of chopped veggies, egg, and spices, and mixing it all together to create a dish that tastes something like fried rice—but without the rice. It’s a fabulous dish that would probably be popular across the globe if people knew about it.

Read the rest at Spice City Toronto.


Spice City Toronto explores Toronto’s great hole-in-the-wall restaurants and strip-mall joints serving food from all corners of the world.

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