Hidden Uzbek Flavours
Updated: Dec 8, 2021
When you live in an area long enough you learn all the short cuts and back roads to avoid traffic. Whether it's cutting through residential side streets, industrial areas or parking lots, sometimes you just have to do whatever you can to just keep it moving in Toronto gridlock.
One of my common shortcuts takes me across Bertrand and up Crockford Boulevard in Scarborough. It's a less trafficked route through a mixed Commercial and Industrial area tucked between Eglinton, Warden, Birchmount and Lawrence. A while back I happened to notice a place called Puff Samosa tucked about in a small unit in a newer office park along that route. I pinned it on my Google map and made a mental note to check it out and see how their Samosas were.
Flash forward a few months and it's a Saturday and I'm looking for lunch so I finally decided to stop in to check out Puff Samosa to see what they offer. I went in assuming it was going to be a tiny Indian or maybe Sri Lankan take-out counter, but when I got in the small menu was not at all what I was expecting. After speaking with the woman who operates the shop I found out two things:
1. They serve only Samosas on the weekend and save their other menu items for the busier weekday lunch rush, since this was a Saturday I was not going to be able to try the full menu and
2. She is from Uzbekistan and they serve Uzbek food!
This was exciting as it's rare at this point for me to find a cuisine from a country that I have absolutely no experience with in Toronto. I was only able to try their Samosas on my first visit since that was all they had. The rest of the menu definitely peaked my interest though. Kebabs, Manti (dumplings) and a chicken and meat dish called Palov all looked great but would have to wait. For now I tried one of each Samosa.
Their Samosas, more commonly referred to as Samsa or Somsas in Uzbek cuisine, were very different compared to any of the South Asian styles of Samosa that I had tried before. The first major difference is that these were all baked in a soft, flaky, layered pastry. The flavours were much different as well. These had a much more herbal taste as opposed to the more spice heavy South Asian varieties of Samosa.
I tried the beef, chicken and the veggie versions. The veg and chicken versions weren't really for me. They were fine, just a little bland and the chicken version was very onion heavy. I really enjoyed the beef though. The juicy beef, the herbs and the soft buttery pastry all blended together perfectly for me. It reminded me more of a meat pie that what I'm used to in a Samosa.
I made sure to come back on a weekday at lunch to try some more of their menu. I was told that Palov was the unofficial national dish so it seemed like a great place to start. It's the Uzbek variation of the slow cooked rice, broth, vegetable and meat dishes that so many cultures have versions of. Similar to dishes like pilaf, pilau, pulao, biryani, or paella across the globe. This particular Palov featured veal, rice, carrots, onion and a blend of spices. The seasoning was great and the flavours were really deep. I really enjoyed the Palov and had a couple more beef Samosas on the side to go with it.
Another customer in the shop mentioned that they also do a really good soup featuring their Manti so I asked about getting some of that too. The owner told me that she would "alert me" when they had soup available. I wasn't sure exactly what that meant until she pulled out a pen and paper to take down my name and number. I wasn't given any kind of timeline as when to expect this soup call but I look forward to hearing from my new favourite Uzbek restaurant when it's time to come in and pick up some soup!
30 Bertrand Ave unit a-3, Scarborough, ON