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Monday, January 7, 2013

A made-in-Toronto roti empire expands westward

The legendary Gandhi's Indian Cuisine has a new sibling restaurant: Maurya East Indian Roti Cuisine just opened up at 2481 Lakeshore Blvd West in Mimico (map below). This means there are now five restaurants in the Toronto area serving Gandhi's spicy Indian curries inside a roti. Indeed, these Indian-style rotis may be on their way to becoming a classic feature of homegrown cuisine in our city. 

Maurya, named after an ancient Indian kingdom, opened up in November on the site of a former burger joint. The co-owner is Urmila Vayalpati, the sister of Gandhi's Avtar Singh. Urmila also owns another Gandhi spin-off, Parkdale's Mother India, as well as New York Subway on Queen West.

Also in the Gandhi empire is Roti Time, originally owned by Singh but subsequently sold, and Roti Cuisine of India, run by a former Mother India employee. The chefs at each restaurant bring slight variations to the food, but the basic recipes remain the same as Singh's original creations at Gandhi.

Urmila, originally from South India, spent five years working at the counter of Gandhi before taking over Mother India. Two years ago she moved to Etobicoke and started thinking about opening a restaurant in the area. Selling the concept hasn't been difficult, as "most of our customers here know Gandhi and Mother India," she says.

In India, fire-baked roti bread is served as an accompaniment to a meal. Wrapping a curry in roti is a hallmark of the southern Caribbean, something that evolved out of cuisine brought to the region by Indian labourers. However, at Gandhi and its related restaurants, the curries served are the original Indian spice blends. "Caribbean curries use powder and we use paste," explains Urmila (pictured below with co-owner Benjamin Nanneti). "We use ginger, garlic and onion."

The curries at Maurya are spiced with chili powder, tumeric, and other spices, and slow cooked for eight or nine hours. When you order one, the chefs take a ball of dough and feed it into the roti machine, which flattens it into a thin sheet. The chef throws it onto the grill until the skin bubbles and chars ever so slightly, while another chef heats up the curry on the stove. He adds spice in to get to the customer's requested level of heat. Maurya uses a more reasonable scale than Gandhi's, which is known for its scorching levels of spiciness. Even Urmila says she can only stomach a Gandhi 'mild'. 

The two rotis I sampled were delicious. While milder than Gandhi's, they had the same telltale dimpled roti skin. Each hefty package weighs as much as a brick and when you cut into them, searing steam escapes. 

In the butter chicken roti ($11.95), a creamy, bright orange sauce flecked with fenugreek leaves blankets the tender meat cubes and firm potato chunks. The saag paneer roti ($9.95) is filled with a dense stew of mushy, green spinach and slightly chewy cubes of Indian cheese (paneer). 

The banana lassi makes a great accompaniment. The sour yogurt is counterbalanced by the sweetness of the banana, creating a thick mixture that resists your attempts to inhale it through the straw. All in all, Maurya is a great addition to a classic Toronto tradition. 


Maurya East Indian Roti Cuisine is located at 2481 Lakeshore Blvd West, Toronto, 647 748 6001. Hours are Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 10 pm; Saturday and Sunday 12pm to 10pm. It takes around 10 minutes to prepare a roti, and you can phone your order in. 

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