This Afghan lunch spot is a hidden gem tucked away in a meat retailer

Metro Morning‘s meals information, Suresh Doss, joins us each week to debate one of many many nice GTA eateries he is found.

This week, he talked to host Ismaila Alfa about an Afghan spot in Thorncliffe, two days after the primary ever Michelin information was launched in Toronto. 

Suresh Doss: On the Michelin information, I feel crucial factor to notice is that any recognition to the restaurant scene in Toronto is a constructive. It helps with tourism, it helps eating places get observed. And it bolsters our total picture as a metropolis. However I do have some emotions in regards to the information itself. As a result of I really feel that whereas it covers a few of the apparent spots, it falls quick to actually showcase how unbelievable our metropolis is for meals, particularly if you zoom in on smaller outlets doing specialty delicacies. 

Ismaila Alfa: On that be aware, you’ve got picked a particular place for us. 

Suresh Doss: Thorncliffe Park is is a neighbourhood that’s pricey to me. I’ve by no means lived on this a part of East York, however I’ve all the time been adjoining, all the time close by. A few of my very first recollections of Afghan and Pakistani meals in Toronto have been on this neighbourhood. Even common journeys to Iqbal meals, this excellent grocery store. Aspect be aware, Ismaila I extremely advocate you go to Iqbal meals. 

Ismaila Alfa: Why is that?

Suresh Doss: As a result of I’m satisfied they’ve the biggest choice of rice within the nation. Within the pantheon of nice cultural-forward supermarkets we’ve within the metropolis, Iqbal is excessive on the prime. And it is an instance of how this excellent neighborhood has grown and developed through the years, particularly in terms of meals. Which brings us to this gem of a spot, tucked inside a butcher store.

The new counter at Madina Nan Kabob is inside a Pakistani meat retailer, Al Mina Halal Meat and Grocery. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila Alfa: Madina Nan and Kabab?

Suresh Doss: Sure and it is tucked inside a butcher store referred to as Al-Mina Halal Meat and Grocery. The story right here is of two Afghan brothers who migrated to Canada from Kandahar within the early 2000s.

They’re Habib Jan Hakim and his youthful brother Najib Raufi. Whereas neither labored within the restaurant area again house, Habib all the time wished his personal little spot for years. For quite a few years, he would cater to households within the neighbourhood for picnics and occasions. He was working as a mechanic when the pandemic struck and says that he principally noticed it as a chance to modify fields and discover a place to do takeout.

Najib makes recent naan with loads of sesame seeds for a nutty flavour. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila Alfa: How does that deliver him to the butcher store?

Suresh Doss: A element about Thorncliffe Park that is related right here is that there’s a lot of camaraderie within the entrepreneurial area right here. There all the time a collaboration between two events. You may discover that the grocery store will carry mango pickle made by close by aunties. The roti on the sizzling counter within the meals court docket on the mall is made by a household in one of many condo buildings. 

Ismaila Alfa: So there’s a actual sense of neighborhood right here.

There is a few unbelievable connective tissue that binds Thorncliffe Park. Habib was launched to the shop proprietor of the Pakistani butcher store, Ashram by a enterprise proprietor in the identical plaza. The supply was easy, Habib wished half the area and he promised to make use of substances from the butcher store for his menu. And the remainder is historical past. 

Ismaila Alfa: So what’s on the menu right here at Madina? 

The brothers infuse their kabob with detectable Pakistani flavours after years of catering for the Thorncliffe Park neighborhood. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Suresh Doss: Habib and Najib have a really easy menu right here, a tribute to 3 issues; bread, meat and rice. There may be an assortment of meat that Habib prepares in-house. He could be the primary to level out that it isn’t classically Afghan-style, it’s one thing he has adopted after years of cooking for Pakistani palates. 

So there’s pronounced spicing, roasted spices within the marinades. Some meats are marinaded for a number of hours, the meat in some circumstances for a day or two. After which all the things is skewered and cooked over charcoal.

You’ll be able to have the plates right here with freshly made naan, which Najib makes, dotting bread with an extreme quantity of sesame seeds so every chew has that nutty pop, or you possibly can have the kebabs over rice, which is cooked to the proper tenderness in a mix of spices.

There’s additionally an alternative choice. So a number of months in the past Habib added Kabuli pulao to the menu. That is the enduring Afghan-style rice cooked with a bit sugar. It is jewelled with carrots and raisins. It’s only a improbable counterbalance to the kebabs. It’s also possible to request so as to add some home Chile sauce, and a few yogurt sauce to the plate. That is how I have been having fun with it the previous a number of months. 

Madina added Kabuli pulao to their menu. It is best served with some home chili sauce and yogurt sauce. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila Alfa: Is there something you advocate to complete this nice meal at Madina?

Suresh Doss: There is a secret merchandise one the menu, firni. It’s a rice pudding, which has similarities to Indian kheer made with floor rice as an alternative. 

I am unsure why its a secret dish as a result of if you ask for it, Habib will spend a couple of minutes to elucidate why he’s so pleased with how he makes the dish. He boils milk over a protracted time period, would not use any retailer purchased powders, and dots it with pistachio crumbs.

It’s a actually luxurious, creamy end to this meal. 

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