Spice City Toronto: A South Asian Superstore in Thorncliffe Park
A Thorncliffe Park halal grocer sells hard-to-find foods a mere stone's throw from downtown.
Iqbal Halal Foods is one of the pioneer ethnic grocers in Toronto. Established in 1991 at 2 Thorncliffe Park Drive, this large halal superstore is a well-loved destination for Thorncliffe Park’s large South Asian community. Another great thing about Iqbal is the location: nestled on the edge on an industrial zone in Thorncliffe Park, it’s one of the closest ethnic supermarkets to the city core.
I started my visit to Iqbal’s off with breakfast in the adjacent Iqbal Kebab and Sweets Centre. For $6.95, you get a spicy potato aloo, a chickpea curry called chhole, two fried puri breads, a garnish of Indian pickle, and some bright-orange cream of wheat. The cream of wheat, explained Nazmul, one of our fellow diners, is made with ghee (Indian clarified butter) and spices. Food colouring gives the dish its orange hue.
In the grocery store next door, Nazmul, who hails originally from Bangladesh, kindly offered to show us around. First stop was the bread section. There’s a wide selection of Afghan flat breads, pitas, naan, chapati, and paratha. If you want to make your own dosa or idli (a type of Indian/Sri Lankan breakfast cake made from fermented lentils), you can buy premade batter.
The produce section features some veggies you’re unlikely to find at many other groceries in town. Iqbal sells fresh channa—raw, unprocessed chick peas—as well as raw (unroasted) peanuts, which are strangely squishy to the touch. You can sample banana flowers, which can be made into salads, fritters, or stir fries. In addition to more familiar vegetables, like bitter melon and okra, you can get snake gourd, a long, thin vegetable that resembles a serpent, and betel leafs, a mild stimulant chewed with betel nut.
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Spice City Toronto explores Toronto’s great hole-in-the-wall restaurants and strip-mall joints serving food from all corners of the world.
Our original headline mistakenly located this store in Flemingdon Park; it is actually in Thorncliffe Park.