TehranTO's top baker is hard to find, but he makes an intoxicating reshteh khoskhar
Farhad Pastry is located at 57 Glen Cameron Rd. in Thornhill
For many in Toronto's Iranian communities, dishes like reshteh khoskhar deliver a feeling of pure nostalgia.
"My childhood in a box," Sam Rahbar said as he slid a Tupperware full of the dessert toward me.
The treats look like a stack of fresh spring rolls with white, whisper-thin shells almost resembling a cob web, and it's a special treat in TehranTO, a strip of Iranian shops and restaurants on Yonge Street as you head north of the 401 and into Thornhill.
Rahbar explained that reshteh khoskhar is a delicacy traditionally found in the northern province of Gilan. It's made up of rice batter — reshteh — that's cooked in an elaborate fashion over a hot grill, then folded in with a mixture of khoskhar — cinnamon, ground walnuts and sugar — and grilled once more to crisp up the exterior.
"This is hard to find in Toronto," Rahbar said.
"There are a few restaurants in TehranTO that serve it, and it all comes from one guy."
That guy is Ali Eslaamdoost, who runs Farhad Pastry out of a warehouse facility in Thornhill, away from from the bustling TehranTO spine (I needed Rahbar's help to find it even though I've been visiting this neighbourhood regularly to visit the supermarket Arzon.)
Eslaamdoost has been quietly operating here for a decade.
He arrived in Canada in 1990 and soon after enrolled in the George Brown culinary program in hopes of becoming a master baker.
But after a few years working at a number of pastry shops throughout the city, he decided it was time to fill a void and open an Iranian bakery.
"You have two choice: work for someone or work for yourself. I chose to be my own boss," he said.
I asked Eslaamdoost why he decided to open his store in an industrial strip and not on Yonge Street like the dozens of other businesses. "Rent was cheap, I had no investment. Plus I knew I would have a following," he said.
Here, he dives deep into his upbringing, making traditional Iranian baked goods that are otherwise hard to find in the city.
"I make desserts that remind me of our life in Gilan, when we would take road trips and stop by stands to get some desserts," he said.
The reshteh khoskhar is what he has become famous for within the Iranian community. Eslaamdoost says Iranians will cross the border from Detroit and Buffalo to visit him for stacks of the dessert.
The composition of the dessert is simple but there is mastery and art with how Eslaamdoost prepares it at his shop. He works a batter of rice flour and water, spooning and testing the pour until he gets the right texture.
"Not too thick but also should pour like a nice fountain," he kept repeating with each scoop.
Once the batter is ready, he pours it into a metal mould presser, a cup-shaped device with multiple thin spouts. He then paints the dough onto a hot griddle, creating a cobweb pattern. Within seconds the dough is ready. He quickly folds it and sets it aside to rest.
"You can enjoy the rice on its own ... but the best way is to eat it with the stuffing, the khoskhar!" Eslaamdoost said.
Eslaamdoost tucks the mixture in between the reshteh, folds it and presses the edges to lock in the mixture.
The sweet roll is then lightly cooked on a hot griddle to give it a slight char, and Eslaamdoost uses a little butter to give it a nutty accent. Combine that with the heat blooming the cardamom, the sweet sugar notes and the nice chewy texture and you have an intoxicating treat when eaten warm.
A note about Farhad bakery, Eslaamdoost prefers you call in an order before you arrive, and reshteh khoskhar are best ordered in batches — order 10 or 20, and they'll probably go fast.