I came across T&T Supermarket about four years ago when my folks and I went for lunch at Centre Street Deli in Thornhill. After a mediocre smoked meat feast, we went venturing around the neighborhood and low and behold, we found the mecca of Asian supermarkets. I remember how much fun it was running around the aisles looking at all the crazy foods the market carried. Sure, I’d been to Asian markets before in Chinatown and in Mississauga’s Chinatown but I had never been in a supermarket so impeccably clean and with such a fresh array of fruits and vegetables, live fish- and my mom’s favourite: fresh roasted chestnuts. Ever since then, we would make a trip down to T&T once every couple months to grab some of the BBQ ($6.99 for a large container) and some other snacks along the way. That was way before the Cherry Street T&T Supermarket opened at Toronto’s waterfront, and years before Loblaws retained rights to the supermarket. Admittedly, I was pretty peeved when I heard that Loblaws was going to acquire T&T as I had determined prices would inflate and it would never be the same, genuine Asian market ever again.
Well, kudos to you Loblaws for at least maintaining the authenticity of T&T Asian Supermarkets by establishing the annual T&T Waterfront Nightmarket- I really felt like I was in the back streets of Penang all over again. It makes me wonder why our local ethno-centric neighborhoods (Little India, Chinatown) don’t make this a regular thing – it’s a truly unique experience to anyone’s traveling itinerary and recreating it brings the magic of these foreign lands back home.
The T&T Waterfront Nightmarket took place July 21-24 2011, at the parking lot of the T&T location on Cherry Street in Toronto. It’s a little bit out of the way, but there was a shuttle that picked up patrons at three spots, making it accessible both by public transit, shuttle, and car. My only advice- go to Union Station and make the twenty minute walk- the shuttle was inconsistently late or early, and had room for maybe 20 people, at times there were more people waiting than there was room. BB and I ended up missing the first bus because it was 20 minutes early, then we had to wait almost another hour for the next one to show up – with little to no guarantee from the volunteers if we would be able to get on.
Once in the lot, it was a foodie’s dream paradise – hawker stalls, people yelling for your attention, and a medley of smells (both good and bad) that only could be attributed to the smelly tofu and other delights being cooked up fresh for order.
BB and I spent a total of maybe $10 each – which allowed us to try all the different foods that were available- some were repetitive: there were at least two different smelly tofu stands, teppanyaki squid, barbeque meats (chick, pork, lamb), Taiwanese chicken stalls, etc. It really took us about 4 trips around the entire lot which housed about 160 hawker stalls to really know what we wanted to taste and experience. I think we were a little tame this year, but perhaps next year I’ll convince BB to try the smelly tofu with me in which I overheard revelers saying “it smells a lot worse than it tastes”.
Teppenyaki Squid Stall
Watching the Teppenyaki Squid stalls is an entertaining feast for the eyes – the chef hasa hefty list of things he needs to do to the squid in order for us, the hungry customers, to stand in line for. He takes a batch of bamboo-skewered squid, and puts them on the scorching hot grill, immediately followed by a quick weighed press to flatten them out a bit.
He then continues to methodically flip them over back and forth, making sure they don’t over cook.
Sprinkle some chili flakes, flip, spread on some hot sauce, flip –
Place the weighed press down on the squiggly squids, hand over bouquet of squid over to the cashier and she’ll hand you your steaming hot n’ spicy skewer o’ Teppenyaki Squid- 1 for $3 or 2 for $5. They were just too spicy for me, but BB thoroughly enjoyed it.
Stay tuned for part 2 of my adventures with BB at the 2011 T&T Waterfront Nightmarket!