Shopping trip to Iqbal’s!

One of the best things about living in Toronto is the range of ethnic food you can get. This past weekend, my husband I are were off to the east end to visit family. I decided to drop by Iqbal Foods in East York. This family-run South Asian grocery store and successful restaurant is an awesome place for bargain ethnic foods! The crowds are legendary, and this being Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting meant that on the weekend the store was full of Muslim ladies {both the burqa (veil) and salwar kameez (long tunic and pants) clad ones} and bearded Arab Muslim gents who outnumbered the turbaned Sikh uncles and capri-wearing Hindu aunties. Pretty much the whole subcontinent was there shopping for food!

So what did I get? Well, just a bunch of pantry staples as I didn’t want the food to spoil as it sat in the car. From left to right, my stash includes:

  • A box of plump, juicy Anbar dates from Saudi Arabia
  • Packets of glistening slivered almonds, pistachios and coconut from India for kheer (rice pudding) that I’m planning to make in coming days
  • Dusty maroon Iranian barberries (zereskh) that have this lovely lilting tart flavour for use in a carrot pilaf
  • A big box of Turkish oregano to be rubbed on top of feta cheese and baked!
  • A package of Shish Tawouk spices – can’t wait to marinate chicken cubes and bbq them… *yum*
  • Some Indian Parachute coconut oil for my hair (don’t you love the blue bottle!) [err, this should be stashed in the bathroom not the kitchen]
  • A box of Tang to remind me of childhood Ramadan fasts – always opened our fasts with dates and tang
  • A bottle of Lebanese orange blossom water that I’m hoping to use in… custard? rice pudding? chicken tagine?!
  • From Tunisia, pickled turnips I’ll be adding to my mezze platter, preserved lemonsĀ and fiery harissa sauce made of chillis and garlic to be added to this week’s Moroccan chicken tagine
  • Turkish and Spanish olives
  • Although I always makeĀ  Baba Ghanoush (eggplant dip) and Hummus (chick pea dip) at home from scratch, I picked up a can of each from Lebanon o see 1) how the canned versions taste – it’s been so long since I tasted them; and 2) it’s a short cut if I’m in a hurry – also from Lebanon some sweet fig jam to serve with baked brie
  • Some Pakistani Sheermal (sweet doughy bread, almost Challah-like in texture) to be served with the aforementioned tagine
  • Boxes of ready-to-prepare South Indian delicacies like Idli, Sambhar, Rasam.. my area of cooking expertise is North Indian but someday I’d love to learn traditional Southern Indian food preparations

So I got a whole bunch of ingredients for my pantry from India, Pakistan, Turkey, Spain, Lebanon, Tunisia, Iran, Saudi Arabia…from my favourite regions of the world [North African to China] …!