Toronto·Suresh Doss

Indian desserts meet gelato at this Toronto food truck

Nani's Gelato serves up Indian-inspired flavours of ice cream.

Tuesdays and Thursdays at Berczy Park, Weekends at Trinity Bellwoods

Nani's Gelato serves up Indian-inspired flavours of ice cream. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

For a few years now, we've been experiencing an ice cream renaissance in the GTA. It is typical that with each summer, you'll see a new gelateria or cube-sized ice cream shop pop up in a random neighbourhood. 

But, in the last two years this movement feels accelerated, and if there's one thing most of the new dessert shops have in common, it's the use of global ingredients and flavours. You'll see mentions of yuzu, ube, calamansi juice, saffron and pomegranate molasses on the menu. 

In this new wave of globally themed creamy treats is Nani's Gelato. I first came across Parry Sohi's ice cream van when it was parked at David Pecaut Square during the early days of summer. 

Nani's Gelato uses fresh ingredients to make its Indian-inspired flavours of ice cream. 1:00

"Toronto is still not warm to the idea of food trucks. It is a daily struggle to find a place to park," Sohi explained as he reached into his gelato fridge.

A few moments later he presented a cup topped with one of his feature flavours, a creamy thick pistachio gelato infused with cardamom.

"I feel I have a unique product to offer, I'm using ingredients that are common in Indian cooking and I'm pulling from memories of Indian desserts I had growing up."

The pistachio cardamom is reminiscent of a popular Indian dessert known as kulfi, where condensed milk is boiled with dry milk powder (khoya), cardamom and pistachio to create ice cream popsicles. The next time you're in your neighbourhood Indian grocery store, look for a chest freezer, either by the checkout counter or next to the beverage fridge, it will be stacked with all kinds of imported kulfis. 

Nani's pistachio gelato. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Sohi's version mimics the creamy, nutty qualities of pista kulfi while amplifying the dessert's aromatics with hits of cardamom. Close your eyes and you won't be able to tell the difference, except maybe Sohi's version isn't as saccharine as the store bought stuff. 

Sohi was born in Thunder Bay, Ont., to parents of Kenyan and Indian descent.

"My dad owned and operated restaurants. He also ran a very popular ice cream shop. That's probably where I get it from," he said. 

After a brief career in the corporate world, Sohi decided to pursue his dreams of opening his own gelato shop.

Parry Sohi is the owner of Nani's Gelato. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

"I wanted to see if the masses would like my concept and product, so getting a truck seemed like a good first step before opening a shop somewhere."

In an industrial strip of Mississauga, he found a corner space that he subleases from a large tile manufacturing company. In a small kitchen every morning he makes up to eight types of gelato, and the occasional sorbeto. 

Sohi uses a base cream to create his seasonal and Indian-inspired cool treats.

"Many of the things I am making here is directly inspired by my mom and grandma. Memories of me eating Indian sweets and things when I was a kid."

In the span of a few months, Sohi has amassed a following for his take on mango sorbet and gelato. The sorbet is mango essence at its purest. Sohi procures summer mangos when in season to produce a gelato that is creamy and luscious.

"It should taste like the ripest mango you have ever had."

Nani's Gelato uses fresh mangos to make its mango flavour. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

There's also a mango gelato on regular rotation where Sohi purees thick chunks of ripe mango and mixes it with his base cream and again, cardamom, to create a gelato that reminds me of a creamy version of aamras, a chilled mango dessert popular in some parts of India. 

But, perhaps the best item in my opinion on his menu is Sohi's take on one of the quintessential desserts of India and Pakistan, the carrot halwa.

Nani's Gelato parks at Berczy Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays and at Trinity Bellwoods on the weekends. You can find their latest location posted on their Instagram account: @nanisgelato. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

In its traditional form, the dessert is a pudding-like dish made from cooking grated carrot with khoya, milk, sugar, clarified butter and occasionally finished with nuts. It is thick and clumpy, bridging the sweetness from the root vegetable with the nutty qualities of ghee.

"This is a flavour that every auntie and Indian kid will recognize immediately. It takes you right back to your childhood, whether it's Toronto, Thunder Bay or somewhere in India."

Carrot Halwa is one of the most popular flavours served up at Nani's Gelato. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

By slowly cooking pureed carrots in ghee and his base ice cream, and allowing it to steep for long periods of time before churning it, Sohi has managed to capture the essence of the iconic carrot pudding in frozen form, and it is on the menu this summer. 

About the Author

Suresh Doss is a Toronto-based food writer. He joins CBC Radio's Metro Morning as a weekly food columnist. Currently, Doss is the print editor for Foodism Toronto magazine and regularly contributes to Toronto Life, the Globe and Mail and Eater National. Doss regularly runs food tours throughout the GTA, aimed at highlighting its multicultural pockets.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.