Downtown street food market gives you a tour of the world’s cuisines

Subway Morning‘s food guide, Suresh Doss, joins us every week to discuss one of the many great GTA eateries he’s discovered.

This week, I talked to host Ismaila Alfa about a takeout food market in downtown Toronto.

Ismaila: What is Market 707?

Suresh: This is a container market established in 2011 by Scadding Court. So, we’re heading to Dundas and Bathurst in the city, just north of Alexandra Park. I want you to picture this beautiful and colorful row of shipping containers that is home to a dozen businesses. It was a mix of retail and food when it was launched. But today, it is mostly food.

Ismaila: I have heard of this place, and walked by there. What is the food like there?

Suresh: It is really wonderful now. it has changed a lot a lot during the pandemic. I am not exaggerating here. Picture a global food tour of street food from Chicago to New Delhi to Osaka. As you may know, we don’t have a ton of street food options in Toronto. So this is kind of a highlight for eating in this city.

Chef Harwash is located at Market 707 in Alexandra Park. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: And today, you’re taking us to one of the newer venues there?

Suresh: Yes, so a tiny little kitchen preserving Damascene recipes, giving them new life. Here’s Houssam of Chef Harwash:

“We’ve been in this profession for a 110 years. Our father taught us the old way that he used to do in his restaurant. I have my father’s recipes in his handwriting. So we are talking about kind of food that we serve as fast food. I am trying to transfer you to the Damascus experience without traveling there. It’s my goal there.”

Ismaila: I have never seen so much personality bursting out of a tiny space. This is a container, right?

Suresh: A little bit about Houssam. His family of him owned a bunch of restaurants in Damascus. But because of the events of the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria, he and his four brothers left the country. They eventually arrived in Canada as refugees in 2018. And he said that he spent his first year in Canada working with a ride-hailing company, which is how he stumbled upon Scadding Court.

And he found a place there, and opened this place Chef Harwash in November 2019, just before the pandemic. So, it’s been a very challenging ride for him.

The falafel and sujak wrap. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: What’s the menu like?

Suresh: He found a late night audience for his falafel and his sujuk sandwiches, like his wraps. During the weekends, he stays open late at night because there is this post-partying, clubbing crowd.

You’re looking for something delicious to eat and what else is going to be open at midnight or 1:00 AM? So those were the first items that were hits.

So here’s a guy who makes all his own marinades and his own sauces. He’s following his father’s and grandfather’s written recipes. So this falafel is made with chickpeas and parsley, and a good amount of coriander in there. When he serves it to you, he puts this pomegranate molasses, which I really appreciate because it gives you a wonderful sour note.

[To make the] kebab. he marinates and makes by it hand. He wraps it in this meat wrap. He puts this very creamy garlic sauce on it that gives him a nice punchy touch. That’s the late night stuff.

If you’re visiting for lunch, I have some other stuff for you.

Toshka flatbread with sujuk and cheese. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: What do you have for us?

Suresh: It’s quite impressive what he is able to recreate from such a small space. A lot of the time, I find that it is Damascene dishes that he presents in new ways.

Two examples. There is something called a zaatar thyme saj. It’s an enveloped thin flatbread that is generally cooked in a high-heat oven. But he cooks it on a flat top. He’ll put a very thick smearing of sesame seeds, thyme, lemon rind. There’s even coconut powder. It’s very traditional Syrian, from the Silk Road era.

Falafel wrap, a street food favorite at Scadding Court. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

There’s a very generous amount of olive oil too. And secondly, I think you would love is a dish from Syria called a Toshkha.

It’s essentially flatbread but a sandwich this time. And in between it there are kebabs along with cheese. He presents it kind of like a quesadilla.

So I want you to picture a bubbling cheese and sauce oozing out of the sides. For me, you can slice it and there’s a garlic sauce in the middle.

The real star of the dish is the sausage that has this pronounced spicing. And it’s brought together by all the sauce and cheese on the dish.

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