Summertime in Toronto is the time to go to all the food trucks, hole-in-the-walls, food markets, and food festivals. What’s a better way to celebrate the reappearance of the sun than by going out and exploring the city’s nooks and crannies, and experiencing all that being in Toronto means?
The first food review of Summer 2015 is on Kanto by Tita Flips. I first discovered Kanto when I started interning at Kapisanan last summer, and I was incredibly eager to introduce it to Mikaius as soon as I could! Part of its charm is that I can’t really consider it fast food because a sweet old lola makes the food. The wait is on the long side (about 15 to 20 minutes), but it’s worth it to soothe my homesick heart.
Before we dig in (hah!), here’s a short primer of relevant Filipino food terminology:
- almusal: The Tagalog word for breakfast
- –silog: a portmanteau of sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (egg, usually sunny-side up). The –silog is a mainstay of Filipino almusals both in the homeland and in the diasporic communities, and it is usually paired with some kind of protein, the main suspects being tocino, tapa, and daing na bangus (which Mikaius reviews below).
- Mang Tomas sauce: Mang Tomas is the most popular brand of pork liver sauce back home. According to one of my aunts, the tastiest of the “homemade” Mang Tomas versions use the liver of the pig being roasted to make lechon in the backyard, instead of buying the livers separately. Apparently, one pork liver makes enough sauce for the pig itself.
- daing: a method of preparing fish wherein it’s butterflied and soaked in a vinegar-y (or calamansi-y) marinade and then either dried under the sun or fried. The bangus for bangsilog (bangus + sinangag + itlog) is prepped like this.
- atchara: pickled papaya that is usually served with pork dishes to cut through the intense pork taste and grease, so that you can go on to eat more pork. Go figure. Atchara is delicious with other kinds of food, not just pork.
Mikaius: My order was the bangsilog with the calamansi iced tea. Entirely delicious. One half of a daing na bangus that’s been soaked in an amazing yet simple vinegar-y marinade, and fried to a delicious crisp. The garlic fried rice at Kanto is always a nice, heartwarming bit of comfort. It embodies my favourite kind of food: simple and tasty. With a nice fried egg on top pouring out molten goodness into that rice when you cut into it, the rice is just the right pair to the fish. The fish itself was (and has been every time) made perfectly. The crunch on the fry is perfect, the flesh is soft, and even the skin (descaled, mind you) has that vinegary-fried flavour well in hand with a satisfying crunch.
I’ve had a good few items off the menu. Most of the menu, actually. I don’t know if tosilog or bangsilog is my favourite from Kanto. I find the –silog type of meals so homey, and every time I have one, it’s like a hug in my stomach. Most times I default to the tosilog, just because I can’t pass up pork and sweetness, but sometimes I just want that nice vinegary taste that the bangus has.
Dani: I ordered the lechon kawali off of the giant menu that they have beside the counter. For the uninitiated, lechon kawali is pan-fried crispy pork belly that Kanto serves with a side of atchara (pickled papaya) and the ubiquitous Mang Tomas sauce (savoury pork liver sauce) that you have with almost all servings of lechon back home. This is laid on top of a generous serving of delicious, piping hot garlic rice liberally sprinkled with toasted garlic bits – mini flavour bombs when they explode on your tongue. My mouth is watering just typing that out. Oh, my.
While my favourite thing to have at Kanto is hands-down the bangsilog (butterflied, pan-fried bangus + sinangag + itlog), on that particular day I wanted to try something different. I’d also had fish for several days prior and wanted those greasy fatty pork chunks in my belly. It was so good. The skin was crispy, the fat was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and the garlic rice was perfect. Mmmm. If you ask me what I recommend, I’ll still say go for the bangsilog first – but the lechon kawali is also amazing if you’re craving pork!
Dani: 5/5, highly-recommended! If you want good homemade Filipino food and you’re in the Kensington Market area, head over to Market 707 and sink your teeth into some Kanto.
Mikaius: Absolutely recommend. Recommend entirely! Haven’t had a bad item off the menu and I’ve had almost all the menu!
Overall: To be honest, we’re most likely going back within the month. You should, too!