Toronto·SURESH DOSS

This Gujarati restaurant serves delicious thali platters filled with stewed vegetables and flatbread

Kirtida Kitchen is located at 265 Eramosa Rd in Guelph, Ont.

Kirtida Kitchen is located at 265 Eramosa Rd in Guelph, Ont.

Hitesh and Kirtida Jagad own Kirtida Kitchen in Guelph. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Metro Morning's food guide, Suresh Doss, joins us every week to discuss one of the many great GTA eateries he's discovered.

This week, he talked to host Ismaila Alfa about a Gujarati restaurant in Guelph and told the audience all about "thali."

Ismaila: So how did you come across Kirtida Kitchen? 

Suresh: So about three years ago. I was on a food crawl through the city of Guelph with some friends who were visiting a number of places across the city. I had learned from some friends who live there that there was a growing Gujarati population, partially due to the manufacturing and tech industries hub. 

Kirtida Kitchen is famous for its samosas and pakoras. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

So I was trying to find places that could introduce me to some traditional Gujarati food that maybe I hadn't seen before. You know, I kept thinking of samosas like these Gujarati that are usually stuffed with large chunks of spiced potatoes and onions and lentils. Sometimes there's even paneer in there. I was also looking for some thali. 

Ismaila: What's thali? 

Suresh: This is a traditional way of serving a meal. It's very common throughout parts of South Asia, but also on some islands in the Caribbean. It means plate or a round platter. 

So I want you to picture a big plate. You have a flatbread or a mound of rice in the centre, and then it's dressed around it with an assortment of dishes that are usually cooked beans or pulses like daal and chickpeas. There are seasonal preparations of stewed vegetables.

Sometimes there's meat and fish. So it is essentially a selection of various dishes on one plate with a hyper focus on the region you're in. 

Kirtida Kitchen is known for its thali, a platter of food featuring stewed vegetables, rice and chickpeas. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: So the dishes on the thali change depending on who's making it? 

Suresh: Very much so. Town to town. State to state. And honestly, it's a great way to understand what dishes are locally favoured. 

So, you know, I was searching for this thali and it brought me to the kitchen, this small takeout spot outside of the city core run by Hitesh and Kirtida Jagad.

This is a Gujarati couple that got into the food space after the financial crisis of 2008. They started off actually as a food pop-up at the farmer's market a decade ago with literally two main items on the menu; samosas and pakoras.

Pakoras being this incredibly crunchy spiced fritter that is usually made of potatoes and onions coated in chickpea batter and fried. 

Cooking Sahi paneer, which is a thick gravy of tomatoes, cream and spices dressed with chunks of paneer. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Ismaila: And it's usually served with a chutney or two.

Suresh: The dips are necessary. They are usually slightly sweet or sour or spicy. 

It was an instant hit. They're selling like 400 to 500 samosas a day. That led them to this spot where they were able to expand the menu. 

Ismaila: How is the thali? 

Suresh: Some of the best thali I have had outside of my family's kitchens.  The dishes in the thali change frequently but there are a few classics, and they come in a few sizes.You can get thali with rice and two dishes, or with three or four dishes. 

You then usually pick one veggie curry, one type of legume, and one paneer (cheese) dish

Can I share my favourite combo?

Ismaila: Please do.

Kirtida Jagad making flatbread to order at her restaurant. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Suresh: So Ismaila, we're going to have small servings of an assortment of dishes on the plate. Are you on team rice or flatbread for scooping and sopping up?

Ismaila: I am very much on team rice. 

Suresh: So I am going to be on team flatbread. I just find that you can tear off pieces and scoop so easily. I mean, rice is great, but Kirtida makes the flatbread or the naan to order, and fresh flatbread or not, you can't say no to that. I think it's better to sop up with flatbread. 

Ismaila: We can just agree to disagree with that! 

An assortment of spices used in Kirtida Kitchen's dishes, including cinnamon, curry powder and dried chili peppers. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

Suresh: Enjoy your rice, but we're on team flatbread this week. 

I would first and foremost recommend the bhaigan bartha. This is cooked eggplant that is cooked with tomato and onions and a myriad of spices. It has this wonderful velvety texture.

Get the chickpeas to go with that, it is this reduced thick stew of legumes and spices.

Next the sahi paneer, which is this thick orange coloured gravy of tomatoes and cream and spices, that are dressed with chunks of paneer. 

It has that creamy quality with a slight sweetness, the perfect partner to the flatbread.

And finally, the gulab jamun. Have you had gulab jamun?

Ismaila: Yes, I love it. 

Suresh: The star sweet of India if I can say that, milk solids that are formed into small balls, fried and then dunked in a syrup. 

It's a great finale to this ride of varying aromatics and textures.

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