This eatery's Salvadoran pupusas are a 'hit' with Toronto's Latin American community
Pupuseria Delicias is at 40 Carl Hall Rd. in North York
The Downsview Flea Market is the best of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area. This quintessential experience is a sprawling oasis of over 160,000-square-feet of you-name-it.
The flea market has many layers — a large grocery space and farmer's market at the front, an indoor shopping area with over 500 vendors and a few food courts. It's dual purpose for many communities in North York — a one-stop shopping destination and a gathering place.
I was first introduced to the flea market nearly a decade ago by a friend. Tucked away at the back of the market is one of its best attributes. The area features a dozen vendors from various countries, all indie mom-and-pop shops. They served tacos, jerk chicken, pasta dishes and shawarma.
With a high dose of culture, exuberance and rawness that is soundtracked to the cacophony of boom boxes echoing across the cavernous space, the flea market is an experience that sticks with you. Families would pick up groceries, shop for clothing and jewlery, and sit down at the food court for a meal. There were no tourists in sight.
Downsview Flea Market has grown over the years, but remains only open on weekends. Now it feels like it's bursting at the seams, almost spilling out into the parking lot that can be a nightmare to navigate around lunch time.
The space clusters nearly every international community under one roof, while at the core maintaining that raw buoyancy. The food court has sprawled too, with sections of snacks and hot plates scattered across the gargantuan floor. But in the back, the main food court features more than a dozen vendors and is still where the best stuff can be found.
One of its oldest vendors is Pupuseria Delicias — known for its pupusas, a traditional street dish from El Salvador comprised of a masa tortilla, or corn tortilla, stuffed with a combination of refried beans, pork belly and cheeses. It's eaten with a cabbage slaw and generous slathering of hot sauce.
Mirna Gomez owns the eatery and is from El Salvador. "I come from Santa Ana. I came here for a better life," she said.
Gomez isn't a formally trained chef, but is widely recognized by her community and extended family as a talented cook.
"She was very well-known for her pupusas" said Gomez's 24-year-old son, Daniel.
When Mirna immigrated to Canada in 1986, the first thing she missed was El Salvador's bustling street life and night culture. She recalled evenings where families would gather around city squares and enjoy street food that was accompanied by live music.
Pupusas were central to this experience.
Mirna wasn't happy with the pupusas in the GTA and decided to open Pupuseria Delicias, said Daniel.
In the impossibly small space, she dishes out a compact menu of pupusas and tamales.
Mirna's food is a hit in the Latin American community. People from across Ontario and as far as New York City visit the eatery for a taste of her pupusas.
"Sometimes we'll have people ordering 30 or 40 of them to go" said Daniel, adding they store well and offer immigrants a taste of home.
Mirna's pupusas have an light, airy texture. Mirna says the secret is to make them fresh.
You can pick a combination between the pork, beans, cheese, and watch her fold the ingredients into a corn tortilla before cooking it on a large griddle that she wrestled into a makeshift kitchen.
My personal favourite combination is the pupusas revueltas, where all three ingredients are mixed — the saltiness from the pork, the earthy beans, and gooey queso, or cheese.
The blistered pupusas are served with curtido, or homemade cabbage slaw, and a choice of two of Mirna's signature salsas — medium or spicy. I recommend getting both for a mixture of tang and spice that the tortilla can soak up.
Pupuseria Delicias is at 40 Carl Hall Rd.
Suresh Doss's weekly food segment airs every Thursday on Metro Morning. Watch for video of his jaunts across the city on CBC Toronto's Facebook page.
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