Sort-of Secret: The Bollywood Tacos, an Indian-Mexican restaurant in Oshawa

Sort-of Secret: The Bollywood Tacos, an Indian-Mexican restaurant in Oshawa

Think butter chicken tacos and curry lamb nachos

A spread of Mexican-Indian dishes from The Bollywood Tacos, a fusion restaurant in Oshawa

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The sort-of secret: The Bollywood Tacos, a fast-casual Indian-Mexican restaurant in downtown Oshawa
You may have heard of it if: You live in Durham region and have a thing for fusion food
But you probably haven’t tried it because: The Oshawa restaurant is the only location
 
On the corner of Simcoe and Bond in downtown Oshawa sits the Bollywood Tacos, where—as the name suggests—Mexican and Indian flavours and ingredients are blended to create some pretty unique dishes. The family-run takeout spot churns out intriguing combinations like butter chicken tacos and curry lamb nachos alongside classics from each cuisine, like churros and gulab jamun.

Owner Raj Ganesan grew up in Sri Lanka but fell in love with Indian cuisine while touring the country with his family when he was a teenager. “Every state you pass through, there’s something different to eat,” he says. “There are so many flavours inside one country, and that culture and diversity really stuck with me.”

Raj Ganesan, owner of Bollywood Tacos in Oshawa, Ontario

In 2008, when he was 18, Ganesan and his family immigrated to Canada. Soon after arriving, he got a job as a dishwasher at Real Sports. Later, he worked cook positions at places like the now-closed Fish House in Richmond Hill and Marlowe Restaurant in Markham. A fan of culinary fusion, Ganesan knew that, when it came time to open a restaurant of his own, the menu wouldn’t focus on just one cuisine.

In 2017, he opened Focal Resto Lounge at Queen and Bathurst, serving dishes like duck confit poutine, Thai risotto meatballs and surf-and-turf ravioli. The high cost of rent on the Queen West strip, however, became too much to bear, and not long after opening, Ganesan decided to sell his business and move to Oshawa.

But he wasn’t done with the restaurant industry. While vacationing in Mexico, Ganesan came up with the idea for an Indian-Mexican restaurant. “I was thinking about how similar naan and tortillas are,” he says. “So when I got home, I tested my idea for Indian-style tacos, and I was like, Wow—these are amazing.”

Two butter chicken tacos and mango lassi from Bollywood Tacos, an Indian-Mexican restaurant in Oshawa

Related: Toronto’s best tacos right now

Shortly afterward, in 2019, Ganesan opened the Bollywood Tacos, running it with help from his wife, Marriane Lopez, and his parents. The idea: a Subway-style choose-your-own-adventure set-up of Indian proteins (butter chicken, fish pakora, curry lamb, shrimp tikka, chana masala), Mexican toppings (cilantro, guacamole, pickled onions, jalapenos) and Indian sauces (mint chutney, sweet tamarind sauce and the sweet-and-spicy mayo-based house TBT sauce). It’s all served on a choice of vessel: naan tacos, tostadas, burritos, nachos or fries.

A person holds up a butter chicken taco from Bollywood Tacos

The fan-favourite filling is by far the butter chicken, which is sweet and rich. The sauce is slow-cooked for over four hours before the chicken is added into the mix. “It took two years of experimenting with the recipe before it met my standards,” says Ganesan.

Another popular protein is the pakora fish, cod that’s battered, fried and coated in Ganesan’s masala spice blend. Some of the carefully selected ingredients in the top-secret seasoning include dried mango, cumin, paprika, Kashmiri chilis, garlic and ginger. “It’s sweet, salty, savoury and sour—and also full of umami,” he says. “As soon as you smell it, you start salivating.” The signature blend also seasons the restaurant’s shrimp tikka and masala fries.

A bowl of momos from Bollywood Tacos

The momos—carrot, cabbage and soy dumplings—are pretty traditional, but Ganesan makes them his own by garnishing the fried pockets with his masala spice, TBT sauce, mint chutney, chili oil, crispy onions and cilantro.

While customers can add up to five toppings and four sauces (or more of each for a bit extra) to whichever base they choose, Ganesan’s regulars tend to stick with their go-to orders. “There are certain customers we’ll see crossing the road on their way in, and my wife will start prepping their order because she already knows what they’re going to get,” he says. “But we also have people who try something different every single time—the combinations are endless.”

Gulab jamun