Metro Morning‘s food guide, Suresh Doss, joins us every week to discuss one of the many great GTA eateries he’s discovered.
This week, he talked to host Ismaila Alfa about a restaurant that serves up Caribbean-style roti with Indian curries.
Suresh Doss: First things first, so when I say roti, what comes to mind?
Ismaila Alfa: I think of the slightly chewy roti shell wrapped around some wonderful curry potatoes. Some people like it with chicken or shrimp. I’m partial to goat or beef, wrapped up like a big pocket of curry meat or potato.
Suresh Doss: You describe the Caribbean dhalpuri-style roti that has curries of vegetables or meat stuffed into it, layered. Then there is the Indian style rote, the flatbread you get served with curries and more. We’re in Toronto so we’ve had both styles for decades because we have such a wonderful mosaic of intersecting cultures. And typically when that happens, you start to see new cuisine and dishes appear. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that eventually you see some variance on that Trinbagonian roti shell, maybe stuffed with styles of curry from the Indian subcontinent. And maybe over time, the shell itself changes too. And this is what Gandhi’s on Queen Street started doing 25 years ago. In my opinion, it’s a very unique Toronto thing.
Ismaila Alfa: This is the iconic Gandhi Roti, which closed two years ago. Is there a connection between Gandhi and the place you’re introducing us to?
Suresh Doss: So the place is Anna’s Roti and the owner, John Xavier, is a well accomplished cook that has been working in a number of different restaurants for many decades, including at Gandhi’s. But at Anna’s Roti House, he’s really been able to focus on the art of stuffing roti and sauce. Shall we run through the menu?
Ismaila Alfa: Take me through there.
Suresh Doss: The first thing I should point out is that the menu is broken up by different styles of regional curries from the Indian subcontinent, which is then stuffed with this very thin flour roti, almost like a tortilla, and wrapped tightly.
There is a vindaloo style of preparation, representative of curries from Goa. You can get a madras curry which is more of a south Indian thing. Some are meant to be spicy, some are very creamy and rich. Also, you should know that every style of roti can be ordered without meat. I have friends that stand by the idea that stuffed roti are best with vegetarian curries.
Ismaila Alfa: Can you give me an example?
Suresh Doss: One of my favourite stuffed roti here is the paneer tikka roti. You have these bold orange chunks of paneer that are marinated in an assortment of spices, and then grilled.
It’s then cooked in a vegetable sauce until it’s almost crimson. The sauce practically clings to the roti shell. At first, the bites of paneer have a nice bounce to them and they mellow out as you work your way through the roti.
Ismaila Alfa: How big are these stuffed roti compared to the Trinbagonian ones?
Suresh Doss: They’re quite big. They feel like a brick in your hands. I will be honest, I have never been able to finish a roti in one go. But also, stuffed roti travel so so well. They get better, especially anything from Anna’s.
For example, the beef vindaloo roti, which is something I order regularly. It’s Goan-style curry and it has a very dark roasty quality to it because of the type of cumin and other spices that are roasted, so it has smoky flavour to it. It is heavily laced with curry leaves when you cut into the roti. It tastes like a slow-cooked beef dish that has been cooking on the stove top for hours. And it keeps very very well.
Ismaila Alfa: We’ve talked about a vegetarian option and a beef option. How’s the chicken?
Suresh Doss: I think you should try the chicken madras roti. It has the same creaminess of butter chicken, but with a nice tangy balance and more depth, it doesn’t feel heavy. And there is mango curry roti.
Ismaila Alfa: What is that like?
Suresh Doss: This is a thick sauce with tender pieces of chicken. It has a sweetness to it, more the essence of fruit rather than straight sugar in the sauce. And it actually goes very well with the chicken.
Ismaila Alfa: I’ll definitely have to try this place out.