Country 033 – Syria (Reyan)

reyan
Location
: 75 Dundas Street West, Mississauga
Websitehttp://reyan.ca/

I think I could make the argument that lamb is the most underrated food out there.  Yes, not just most underrated meat, but most underrated food (here in North America at least.  Many other countries quite sensibly eat a lot of lamb, because it’s delicious).  Prepared well, it’s super tender, and jam-packed with enough flavour to put even a really good-quality piece of beef to shame.  What’s not to love?

I guess Syria is one of those sensible, lamb-loving countries, and if this dish is anything to go by, they’re eating pretty well.  They’re also going through some not-so-great times right now, but that falls way outside of the purview of this blog, so… lamb.

I actually discovered this place thanks to an article in the Toronto Star, which described the Lamb and Rice as follows: “The fat is so soft you could spread it on toast for breakfast. The meat and rice are perfumed with the spices, none of them competing with the intensity of the flesh.”

It’s really good.  The article nails it; it’s perfectly spiced, but the star of the show is clearly that tender, immensely flavourful lamb.  A knife is provided, but the meat is so perfectly tender that it’s barely even necessary.

The rice is cooked with the lamb stock, which infuses it with so much great flavour.  The slivered almonds on top add crunch, and the small plate of very rich plain yogurt helps to cut through the richness.  It’s a fairly no-frills dish, but man, it’s so good.  In the case that the simplest dishes are often the best, this would be exhibit A.

Reyan - the restaurant Reyan - the restaurant Reyan - the rice and lamb

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Countries 008 and 009 – Malaysia and Pakistan (Carassauga 2015)

carassauga-a
Location
: Various locations in Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.carassauga.com/

I sort of figured that Carassauga — a weekend-long cultural festival held in Mississauga every year — would provide ample fodder for this blog.  Though food clearly isn’t the focus here, it’s fairly abundant.

And it’s a fun enough event, though you’re probably not going to learn anything particularly new about any of the cultures on offer (they were dancing to “Gangnam Style” in the Korea pavilion, if that tells you anything).

But yes, the food: the first (and best) item I tried was a veggie dumpling from the Malaysia pavilion.  Closer to a fritter than any kind of dumpling I’ve ever tried, it was delightfully greasy, with a crispy exterior and a soft, chewy interior.  It was filled with cabbage and carrots, and had a sprinkling of onions on the outside that were super crispy and tasty from the fryer.

It wasn’t hot at all (it was actually bordering on cold), but even still, it was surprisingly delicious.  I was very tempted to immediately order another one, but I figured I should probably save room for other stuff.

carassauga-b

We hit the Pakistan pavilion next, where I tried dali bhalle, a cold dish consisting of a cornbread-esque pastry doused in a fragrant yogurty sauce.  There were also chunks of potato, chickpeas, and little fried bits of pastry.

It was a unique dish, that’s for sure.  Typically, when you try a new food, there’s some point of reference to be had — but I really can’t think of anything else to compare this to.

I enjoyed it, even if it was a bit one-note.  There wasn’t a whole lot of depth of flavour to the sauce, and the pastry, potatoes, and chick-peas were all similarly soft and crumbly.  Some contrast in flavour or texture would have been welcome.  As it stood, I got about half-way through and then dumped the rest in the trash.  Not that it was bad; I was just getting a bit bored.

I tried a few other things — dumplings and rice cakes from Korea, a coconut-infused pastry from Jamaica, a Timbit-esque doughnut from Africa — but those two were probably the most noteworthy.

Carassauga 2015 Carassauga 2015 Carassauga 2015 Carassauga 2015 Carassauga 2015