Spice City Toronto: A Roti Empire Expands
Gandhi's roti is a downtown staple. Now, it has a cousin in Mimico.
The legendary Gandhi’s Indian Cuisine has a new sibling restaurant: Maurya East Indian Roti Cuisine just opened up at 2481 Lake Shore Boulevard West, in Mimico. This means there are now five restaurants in the Toronto area serving Gandhi’s spicy Indian curries inside roti. Indeed, these Indian-style rotis may be on their way to becoming a classic feature of homegrown cuisine in our city.
Maurya, named after an ancient Indian kingdom, opened up in November on the site of a former burger joint. The co-owner is Urmila Vayalpati, the sister of Gandhi’s Avtar Singh. Urmila also owns another Gandhi spin-off, Parkdale’s Mother India, as well as New York Subway on Queen West.
Also in the Gandhi empire is Roti Time (originally owned by Singh but subsequently sold), and Roti Cuisine of India, run by a former Mother India employee. The chefs at each restaurant bring slight variations to the food, but the basic recipes remain the same as Singh’s original creations at Gandhi.
Urmila, originally from South India, spent five years working at Gandhi’s counter before taking over Mother India. Two years ago she moved to Etobicoke and started thinking about opening a restaurant in the area. Selling the concept hasn’t been difficult, as “most of our customers here know Gandhi and Mother India,” she says.
In India, fire-baked roti bread is served as an accompaniment to a meal. Wrapping a curry in roti is a hallmark of the southern Caribbean, something that evolved out of cuisine brought to the region by Indian labourers. However, at Gandhi and its related restaurants, the curries served are the original Indian spice blends. “Caribbean curries use powder and we use paste,” explains Urmila. “We use ginger, garlic, and onion.”
The curries at Maurya are spiced with chili powder, tumeric, and other spices, and slow cooked for eight or nine hours. When you order one, the chefs take a ball of dough and feed it into the roti machine, which flattens it into a thin sheet. The chef throws it onto the grill until the skin bubbles and chars ever so slightly, while another chef heats up the curry on the stove. He adds spice in to get to the customer’s requested level of heat. Maurya uses a more reasonable scale than Gandhi’s, which is known for its scorching levels of spiciness. Even Urmila says she can only stomach a Gandhi “mild.”
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