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Takeout Diaries: Where chef and food activist Joshna Maharaj gets to-go Chinese dumplings, veggie burgers and quinoa onion rings

Takeout Diaries: Where chef and food activist Joshna Maharaj gets to-go Chinese dumplings, veggie burgers and quinoa onion rings
Photo courtesy of Joshna Maharaj

It may be November but it feels like March all over again—our numbers are going up, it’s cold and grey outside and, once again, we can’t eat inside restaurants. But there’s always takeout or delivery. In this new series, we’re asking Toronto chefs to name their go-to takeout spots from throughout the pandemic.

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Joshna Maharaj believes in the power of chefs and social gastronomy to bring hospitality, sustainability and social justice to the table. Her book, Take Back the Tray: Revolutionizing Food in Hospitals, Schools, and Other Institutions, is equal parts memoir and manifesto, in which Maharaj tackles the subject using her experience as an advocate for wholesome and accessible food. She’ll also be in conversation with acclaimed chef-authors Meeru Dhalwala (Vij’s, Vancouver) and Asma Khan (Darjeeling Express, London) on November 29 as part of the Jaipur Literature Festival Toronto.

Maharaj confesses to ordering more takeout than usual these past eight months. “Probably about once a week,” she says. “It’s because more of my chef pals have started offering takeout as the indoor dining restrictions turn on and off, and it’s a nice way to support my industry. Plus, I have to be honest, this is a hard time and I’m finding my own mental state shifting a lot from day to day. There are some days where I’m just not excited about cooking anything, and takeout is exactly the right thing.” Here are a few of the dishes that are helping Maharaj get through those days.

Chinese Dumpling

645 St. Clair Ave. W., 416-651-6363, chinesedumplings.ca

“Chinese Dumplings is a local, family-owned restaurant in my neighbourhood. I always marvel at how piping hot the food is upon arrival at my door, and the portions are generous enough for me to get two to three meals out of each order.”

Go-to item 1: BBQ pork fried rice Dish description: “They have a long menu, but I find myself most excited about the house fried rice with generous bits of char siu.”

Go-to item 2: Pan-fried pork and chive dumplings Dish description: Filled with a juicy pork and chive filling, these handmade dumplings (wrappers included) are pan-fried by the dozen, and presented with their golden bottoms and lacy skirts facing skyward.

Go-to item 3: Chinese broccoli with garlic Dish description: Crisp Chinese broccoli cooked with garlic. Enough said.

Richmond Station

1 Richmond St. W., 647-748-1444, richmondstation.ca

“These are my dear pals and they cook super delicious food,” Maharaj says of Carl Heinrich’s Financial District hot spot. It’s not the first time it’s been mentioned in a Takeout Diary, either.

Go-to item 1: Grilled leek and chickpea burger Dish description: “I love the leek and chickpea burger! It’s a very satisfying veggie burger, with just the right amount of heat.”

Go-to item 2: Polenta fries Dish description: Made with organic corn, basil and parmesan, the gluten-free side is served with a truffle aüoli. “I always order these with the grilled leek and chickpea burger. They stay beautifully crispy in transit.”

Go-to item 3: Duck liver pate Dish description: “This is probably my favourite Richmond Station mouthful of all time,” says Maharaj. The house-made duck liver pate is served with raisin bread and cherry mostarda, and is garnished with chives.

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Fresh on Eglinton

90 Eglinton Ave. E., 416-599-4442, freshplantpowered.com

“Sometimes I just really want that vegetable goodness!” Ruth Tal’s business may have started as a juice booth, but it’s now a mini empire of restaurants selling plant-based dishes and healthful smoothies.

Go-to item 1: Powerhouse bowl Dish description: Brown basmati rice comes topped with avocado, chickpeas, tofu, greens, toasted mixed nuts, tomato and scallions. It’s all finished with a spicy, lemony tahini sauce.

Go-to item 2: Swoosh power shake Dish description: This smoothie is made with peanut butter, cocoa, maple syrup, a whole banana, cinnamon and almond milk.

Go-to item 3: Quinoa onion rings Dish description: Onion coated with breadcrumbs and puffed quinoa, served with chipotle mayo. “They’re a pretty regular order for me. If you’ve never tasted them, you must! They’re the best version of onion rings I’ve ever had, and they travel quite well.”

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