What do you get when you take a group of culinary minded Chinese people to India, home of many of the world's greatest spices, and have them refine their cooking for local tastes for several generations? You end up creating Indian-style Hakka Chinese food, such as the fare served at Danforth Dragon at 861 Danforth Ave.
"Hakka people are like gypsies," says Anthony (pictured below). "They travel everywhere." Anthony says as the third generation of his family to live in India, he doesn't know much about China, but he still speaks hakka at home and cooks hakka food. However, Hakka cooking evolved considerably in India over the years. "Our food has an Indian twist," he says. "It is Chinese food for Indian taste buds, so it's spicier."
Chili paneer with Chinese greens (below; $8.99) is another great dish, featuring flavourful Indian cheese and Chinese cabbage stir fried with onion and soy. Many of the dishes are peppered with bits of green chili, which pack a fiery punch. It's also worth paying 99 cents for the hakka-style special hot sauce—a slightly sweet concoction made with chilis and garlic.
The evolution of hakka food hasn't stopped since its arrival in Canada: Anthony also serves what he calls "North American Chinese" food such as chicken balls, chop suey, General Tso's chicken and lemon chicken, to cater to his mostly Canadian-born clientele.
Danforth Dragon is one of the only Indian-style hakka place in Toronto proper, but Scarborough is chock full of hakka places, some Indian-style and some with more traditional fare. Scarborough is also home to many Jamaican restaurants that are run by Chinese—turns out that most of the Chinese population in Jamaica is also of Hakka origin.
Thanks to Neeraj Singh for the tip.
Danforth Dragon is at 861 Danforth Ave. between Pape and Donlands. Tel: 416 461-9238. Hours: open Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 10:00 pm; Saturday 4pm to 10pm; Closed on Sunday and holidays. Delivery in the local area starting at 1pm daily.
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