If you’ve been to Kuma’s Candy at some point this year, you probably found your feet slowing down outside its new neighbour next door. One glance at the bright yellow door and big windows of Nannaa Persian Eatery could make almost anyone want to step inside.
The décor is a special element of the experience at the eatery. The modern, youthful vibe will surely attract hungry students and elements that celebrate Westdale will appeal to the community at large. Along one wall, there is artwork purchased from the Westdale Cinema’s fundraiser to get the theatre reopened.
Restaurant owner, Mohammad Emami, wants Nannaa Eatery to become a part of the community. He grew up in nearby Dundas and has several friends and family members who attended McMaster University.
“We wanted to be very close to McMaster. This is a fast-causal concept… so it's people who want good quality food, but not necessarily have a full sit-down meal and have to wait for service. And you know with students, with the hospital being there, with the movie theater being next door… Being here really fit,” he explained.
The most eye-catching details of the restaurant are those that reflect Persian culture. Along one wall, there is artwork from a Persian comedian, based off the work of famous Persian poet, Rumi. At the back of the restaurant, there is a graphic of a deconstructed Persian rug hanging from the wall to the floor.
However, some of the most impressive pieces are right when you walk into the restaurant. Along one wall, a series of plates are hanging and, on the other wall, there is a huge mural of an ancient Persian marketplace.
“Persians are very artistic. [These are] all hand-hammered plates that come from a city in Iran called Isfahan, where a lot of…creativity comes [from]. You have people in a marketplace that will hammer it in front of you. So we definitely wanted to have that authentic element in here,” explained Emami.
The culture is not only represented with the art, but also with the music and the staff uniform. The restaurant’s playlist will feature a variety of Persian music for customers to enjoy, alongside some English-language music. Phrases like “nooshe jan” are featured on the staff t-shirts, with the translation ‘bon appétit’ underneath.
All of this is simply the backdrop to the restaurant’s mission: to put Persian food on the map. Emami wants to see Persian food become more widely consumed.
“You'll see other types of Middle Eastern food, you'll see Chinese food, Indian food has grown. We are one of two or three Persian restaurants west of Toronto. So we want that exposure to happen. I think it's about time,” he said.
Customers from all backgrounds will be able to find something that they enjoy on the menu. A section of the menu is dedicated to twists combining Persian with non-Persian dishes, such as the koobideh poutine, olvieh baguette and pulled lamb tacos. There are also more traditional Persian menu items, such as bademjoon stew and dahl addas, a curry-like potato, cauliflower and lentil stew. Several gluten-free and vegetarian options are also available.
Emami’s passion for food stems from his mother’s cooking. It inspired him to open Burlington restaurant, Rayhoon Persian Eatery and now Nannaa. He realized when he was growing up that you don’t have to be Persian to enjoy Persian food.
“I was born in Iran, but I didn't grow up in Iran. So one of the major connections I have with Iran is the food because it was consistent in my life with my mom's cooking. [T]hen my friends who were non-Persian would come over, have the food, and they loved it.”
Emami’s mission also includes a desire for people to learn something about Persian culture. He believes that connecting through good food is one of the best ways to do that.
“[I]f you go to Iran to visit on vacation, everyone is very welcoming. You can't walk into a house where they won't offer you food constantly–you can't say no, it's rude to say no. So it's not only about the food, it's about the culture, it's about the hospitality as well,” he explained.
Whether you’ve grown up with Persian food or want to try it for the first time, Nannaa Persian Eatery has opened its doors to welcome all of Westdale and beyond.
It’s the end of November; assignments are due, finals are imminent, I’m writing a graduate school admissions test in two weeks and the scones I have in the oven are almost ready to come out. The timer finishes and rings. I scramble to the kitchen, pull the tray out and leave it to cool. Back to studying.
I grew up cooking and baking with my mother. At first, I mostly just stirred in (and ate) chocolate chips. But as I got older, I got to take a more involved role in the process, and my appreciation for my mom’s cookies, stews and cakes grew. Practically everything she touched turned out deliciously, which was impressive in its own right. But so was her time management, especially around family dinners and holidays. She kept meticulous lists of what had been prepared and what was still left to do. The pre-Christmas baking was busy, sure, but my mom was never stressed.
When I started university, I aspired to that. I wanted to be able to fend for myself as a real adult. Residence, of course, is not a place to develop those skills, and throughout my first year I felt hamstrung; I had limited control over my lifestyle. Cooking facilities were limited at best, and there was nowhere to safely store any groceries other than a milk carton and a few apples. The same was true in second year. Though I shared a house with a group of people I loved and got along with, the kitchen barely had enough counter space for one person to be cooking, let alone six.
There’s a peace that comes with entering the kitchen with a new recipe in my hand because I know that for the next 20, 30, 60 minutes, I can work undisturbed.
In third year I finally started to feel some freedom in this regard. My new apartment had actual counter space. I could easily keep track of my spice cupboard and baking essentials and I actually had room to store them all. At last, I had found a home in which I could really explore cooking and baking on my own, and honestly, it’s been the only activity I find consistently relieves stress.
I know this isn’t necessarily the most agreed-upon way to relax, but hear me out. There is something incredibly soothing about rote tasks; chopping vegetables, hand-mixing batter or measuring flour that puts me at ease. I can take out my frustration with a particular problem by mincing shallots as small as I possibly can, or release tension after a deadline by shaping and cutting dough into scones.
Ultimately, it’s (usually) rewarding. I get to eat something that I made, which comes with a particular kind of pride. Often I’ll have to learn a new technique, experiment or improvise based on what I have in my kitchen. I also have to factor in that my appliances aren’t exactly state of the art. Learning new skills or adapting them based on the space and equipment at my disposal is a kind of skill I can’t pick up doing anything else, and even if my cookies don’t look as pretty as those photographed in my cookbook, they still taste pretty great.
Experimenting with cooking has also improved my relationship with food simply because I have so much control over what I eat. As someone who hasn’t always had the healthiest of perspective with what and how I eat, cooking and baking what I want, when I want has alleviated much of my anxiety about food.
Preparing a meal or dessert is one of the few activities where I take time for myself. I’m not checking my phone, replying to emails or planning how to divide the rest of my time for doing schoolwork. In that moment, I’m just focusing on adding the right amount of flour, making sure the eggshells don’t get in the batter or ensuring that my chicken is fully cooked. There’s a peace that comes with entering the kitchen with a new recipe in my hand because I know that for the next 20, 30, 60 minutes, I can work undisturbed.
As I careen further into Real Adulthood, baking in particular becomes something of a social activity. Even within our Silhouette Slack group, we have a channel for sharing recipes, and there have been multiple discussions of potlucks or family dinner style get-togethers.
Cooking allows me to use skills I don’t get to improve on in the classroom. Being able to shape your thoughts into an essay or understand a complicated concept is rewarding, but if I had to list my accomplishments this term, baking bread on my own, in my ancient oven, for the first time would be near the top of my list.
Making a nice dinner or a fancy dessert may not erase my deadlines or get my essays written faster, but it clears my head and calms me in a way nothing else does. The smell wafting from the kitchen when the timer goes off is just a bonus.
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On Saturday I decided I was going to bake bread. Lately I have been buried under my workload, and my time in the kitchen has suffered. As someone who tries her hardest to eat wholesome food, being faced with the prospect of pizza and takeout during my essay writing extravaganza is a personal tragedy. The solution? I was going to do some therapeutic baking.
Well — spoilers — my bread was crap. I lacked patience and time. “So much for home cooked food this week,” I said sadly, staring at a pita bread that could be utilized as a hockey puck. All I wanted were ready-made cheap and nutritional meals. According to a Facebook ad, the apparent solution to my problem was Soylent.
Soylent is marketed as a complete meal in a bottle. Nutritionally balanced, and tasting relatively inoffensive, it only costs $2.42 a portion. The website describes it as the “ultimate” food, with tips on how to incorporate Soylent into your lifestyle (“Soylentini” anyone?). The creator has apparently survived months on exclusively his product. If you hate cooking but also hate junk food, this looks like the best option for you.
The name should have been my first clue that not all is as it seems. For those who don’t know, it comes from a 1973 film where — actual spoilers here — “Soylent Green” is the only food available to the masses, and it is made out of people. Concerned, I looked up Soylent’s ingredients, which are thankfully human-free. While I am now less worried about accidental cannibalism, I am concerned about Soylent’s “stable shelf life.” A bottle of the stuff remains unchanged for an entire year. This product is supposed to offer me complete nutrition, how does it do that without having a single fresh ingredient?
Following some research, I have come to a melodramatic conclusion: Soylent represents everything that is wrong with 21st century food. It entirely strips what little communal food culture we have left by making mealtime a solitary activity (despite the pictures on the website of people laughing while enjoying their Soylent sitting side by side. Fun.) It is part of a disturbing trend towards a loss of cooking expertise, which has been the most important skill we have obtained throughout human history. Soylent is produced out of cheap ingredients — hello soy! — which, along with all other processed foods, has increased our dependence on monocultures such as corn and wheat. Growing a whole bunch of one crop has proven to be devastating to our ecosystems and our health, but hey, may I remind you that one bottle of Soylent is only a little over two bucks?
Speaking of ingredients, out of Soylent’s 40 or so, none of them are actually that good for you, certainly not regularly. My food hero, Michael Pollan, argues that you should not buy any meal that has more than five ingredients, and they should all be things your grandmother could recognize. My grandma is a very smart lady, but she does not know what isomaltooligosaccharide is. I asked.
That Soylent can contain only one ingredient I can consume with confidence (water) and still be labeled as a health product is part of our larger misunderstanding about nutrition. Unfortunately, nutritional science is nowhere near as comprehensive as we would like to believe. Pollan has compared modern day nutritionism to Medieval surgery. Sure, it is on the right track, new discoveries are constantly being made and one day it will do great things, but would I let ye olde doctor perform a lobotomy on me? Absolutely not. For example, let’s think about babies. We have developed formula that has doubtlessly saved countless infant lives and helped those unable to breast feed, however, despite the money and engineering that has gone into development, we have been unable to produce something that can nourish a child the same way that breast milk does. We have hardly come close.
My grandma is a very smart lady, but she does not know what isomaltool-igosaccharide is. I asked.
Soylent is what would happen if nutritional science and engineering had a baby: the current formula is named “Soylent 2.0,” and is described as a “diet inspired by an open-source operating system.” I don’t want my dinner to upgrade like my iPhone and I don’t want Linux to be the inspiration for my next meal. Reverse engineering food has so far been a nutritional failure, but for some reason we are still comfortable outsourcing our cooking. We need slow food, not fast food, and when it comes to eating and health we should be listening to our grandparents, not our engineers. I will take my burnt and disappointing baking failures over a bottle of suspiciously flavourless liquid any day, because when I make something myself, at least I know what’s in it.
Photo Credit: Lee Hutchinson
By: Sasha Dhesi
Many young people are nervous about stepping into the kitchen, and know very little what goes into the food that they eat. This was especially apparent to me last week when my friend had to explain to our acquaintances, that yes, you can use spices to cook chicken. It’s common to be nervous about cooking, but cooking at home is a must for the student on a budget. And ultimately, you really can’t enter adulthood without knowing how to make yourself lunch. Knowing some basic aspects of cooking will allow you to not only save money, but also save yourself a lot of embarrassment in the future.
My brother likens cooking to following procedure in his chemistry labs. In both scenarios you’re given your materials and the steps needed to achieve your desired outcome, but have the capacity to change it as you see fit to suit your needs. This perspective allowed me to relieve some of the stress I had about entering the kitchen. To become a good cook, you have to master the rules before you can start bending them.
Another reason why people avoid cooking at home is the short-term cost, which is much less than that of those who buy all their food for the week in one go. But in the long run, eating out will cost you much more money, and will likely cause a myriad of health problems that you will have to pay for later. And if you’re savvy, you can easily offset the cost of buying groceries.
Take fruits and vegetables. Most people will throw out their now droopy carrots and celery after they wilt, but you can easily revitalize your old kale and spinach by letting it sit in ice-cold water and watch as they perk right back up. Now you won’t have to go back to Metro in order to fulfill your rabbit-esque cravings.
Another way to get more out of your aging vegetables would be to sautée them. This is a technique especially useful with bitter greens that tend to be forgotten once your cravings for a green smoothie have died down. This is especially helpful for those who cannot bear eating vegetables on their own.
Speaking of smoothies, a great way to save on the cost of off-season fruits would be to either buy them frozen, or chop them up and freeze them yourself. I always keep some frozen pineapple in my freezer so that I can quickly whip up some pineapple purée, a delicious and healthy alternative to ice cream.
Knowing some simple recipes is also something I would recommend. You will get sick of eating beans and rice everyday, and diversifying your diet is particularly important in maintaining your physical health. One of my personal favourites is the chickpea salad. It takes about half an hour to prepare and the ingredients can easily be switched out to fit your preferences. You really could add whatever vegetables to this salad and would still be left with something nutritious that did not require you to touch a stove.
By: Olivia Monardo
Fall is finally upon us, and there is no better way to welcome it than with this seasonal spaghetti squash dish. Not only is this recipe quick, healthy, and delicious, but it is the perfect way to rid your fridge of any leftover vegetables that have been hanging out since your last trip to the grocery store.
If you haven’t had Pho before, you are missing out. When the cooler weather starts creeping in, it’s definitely one of my favourite dishes. And the best part about Pho is that it is easy to make and highly customizable.
Pho is a Vietnamese style, noodle-based soup with a variety of proteins, topped with fresh, crunchy vegetables and peanuts. The delicate melange of spices brings a wonderfully complex taste of the East to your evening. Some cooks will adamantly claim that a full-flavoured Pho broth needs to take you hours. I am happy to disagree. With the right ingredients you can whip up this fabulous dish in very little time at all.
Whether you are looking for a warm and hearty soup for a cool autumn night, or you want to impress a date with your exotic taste and culinary abilities (and have fun assembling it together), then this recipe is a killer choice.
Undergraduate Pho in a Flash
Prep Time: 30 minutes (15 if you are good with a knife!)
Cook Time: 25 minutes (knife skills won’t help here)
Total Time: 55 minutes (Don’t quote me on that!)
Yield: 4 (leftovers!)
6 cups of Chicken Broth (low sodium!)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp finely diced white onion
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 star anise
2 whole cloves
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 black cardamom pod
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp red chili flakes
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce (optional)
1 tbsp sriracha sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
Cheese cloth (or a wire strainer or ‘spider’)
For Individual Bowl Assembly
1 to 2 lbs noodles (udon, egg noodles or ‘banh pho’)
250g beef (sirloin or outside round) very thinly sliced
12 black tiger shrimp, deveined and shelled
2 mild Italian pork sausages
1 cup of shredded Napa cabbage
1 cup of bean sprouts
½ cup of crushed peanuts
1 carrot, julienned
1 lime (cut into wedges)
½ cup shredded cilantro/mint/thai basil (your call!)
Put a large pot of water on high heat to boil.
Place chicken broth, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, lime juice, fish sauce, sriracha, ginger, garlic, chili flakes, brown sugar and onions into a pot and place on high heat. While you are waiting for the broth to boil, place spices (cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and fennel seeds) in a shallow pan and toast them on low heat, mixing often, until fragrant.
Both pots should be boiling. Place the toasted spices in a cheesecloth (If you do not have cheesecloth or a wire strainer, feel free to use ground spices) and add to the boiling broth. Turn the heat down on the broth to medium low, just above a simmer.
Place your noodles in the boiling water. Cook for 3-4 minutes (most Asian-style noodles don’t take long to cook, and they all have different cook times so check the package first). Once cooked, remove the noodles. Add the sausage and shrimp to the boiling water. The shrimp should only take a few minutes. When the grey color has turned pink, they’re ready to be removed from the pot. The sausages will take a little longer.
Now you have some time for your garnishes. Finely shred the Napa cabbage and your herb-of-choice. Julienned the carrot. Cut the lime into wedges.
By this point, both your broth and sausages should be ready. Remove the sausages and thinly slice them on a bias. Arrange your proteins and garnishes each on a separate serving dish and place the noodles into individual bowls (about 1/3 to ¼ of the way).
Now comes the fun part. Place some of the thinly sliced beef, shrimp, and sausage into the bowl. Using a ladle, top your noodles and proteins with hot broth.
Garnish with shredded Napa cabbage, julienned carrot, bean sprouts, shredded herb-of-choice, lime wedge, and crushed peanuts.
Giggle and dance around the kitchen with your date (I assumed you have music playing!).
Ingredients What You’ll Need
4 tablespoons flour Large Microwavable Mug
4 tablespoons sugar Measuring Spoons
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
1 dash vanilla extract
Add dry ingredients to a large, microwave-safe mug and mix well.
Add the egg, milk and oil. Mix well.
Add the chocolate chips and vanilla extract, and mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!
Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
This quick and easy dessert will be ready to eat in less than five minutes! With simple ingredients and a short cooking time, this is the perfect treat for anyone with a microwave (or residence kitchen). The delicious aroma of soft, warm cake will have people falling into your kitchen. It can be split between two people, but that’s up to your generosity.
For a touch of decadence, drizzle with caramel sauce or whipped cream.