Earlier in March I was invited to attend the first Toronto Underground Market (TUM) of the year. My apologies on the delay of this post, but tickets for the April TUM have been released and hopefully this post will entice you to go out and buy tickets to this months event - happening this Saturday!
This was definitely a different TUM then I was use to. For one, the ticket prices have gone up. They went from $10, to $15, to their current price of $22.50. For those who have been to previous TUM events, this may be a hard pill to swallow. Secondly, all the vendors were brand new (to me at least) and while I was looking for my usual favourites, I quickly realized they were no where to be found. But, that just meant I had to be on the hunt for some new favourites, and boy did I find them!
For those of you not familiar with TUM, it's a gathering of foodies looking to take their passion to the next level. A majority of the vendors aren't working professions in the industry, so they take TUM as an opportunity to share their food with the masses. They also use it as an opportunity to gain the financial security to either open up a food truck or even their own restaurant. But please don't under estimate theses vendors, just because they're "home cooks" doesn't mean they're not "bringing it" when it comes to flavour and creativity! In fact, some of the most famous TUMalum's (TUM alumni haha) have moved on to open up successful restaurants and foods trucks - like Fidel Gastro and La carnita.
My favourite vendor of the night had to be Babi & Co. The line up was intense but the Indonesian Street food coming out of this stand was well worth the wait! The Sate Babi ($5) - marinated pork satays served with pickled cucumbers and sambal were delicious and perfectly seasoned, Babi on a bun ($5) - braised pork on a fried Chinese bun were similar to the Momofuku buns, but the addition of frying the bun gave a great flakey crust, and the Mie Udang ($5) - shrimp and pork noodle soup with pork belly, celery & fried shallots was definitely my favourite dish of the night! There was so much flavour in the sauce and the crispy salty morsels of pork were fantastic!
Meat Pie Mates was also a new vendor I really enjoyed! A few of my friends from Australia have mentioned how popular "meat pies" are down under so I was really excited to try the closes thing I'll probably ever get to a traditional pie from Aussie. I ordered the beef meat pie ($5) with a squirt of ketchup right in the steam hole! All the meat for the pies were local and antibiotic free. I could tell right away the pie crust was homemade. They were nice and flakey and had the perfect ratio of meat to crust.
Some of the vendors I found didn't offer a good bang for your buck. I understand some people don't mind shelling out cash for something delicious, and usually I'm one of those people, but unfortunately there just wasn't a great perception of value with some of the vendors. The sandwich above - although very, very delicious was $7! For half a sandwich - and no chips! I'm a foodie, but I like to consider myself the affordable foodie!
These meringues from Jacks n' Lils' were beautiful. They did a great job with their stand and the mountains and mountains of different flavoured meringues were hard to pass up.
Besides desserts and savoury food, there were also a few drink stands selling cocktails and mixed beverages.
I had a great time at TUM and mad respect for all the vendors. These are people doing what each and every one of us wish we could do - make shit happen! They're taking their dreams into their own hands and they're turning it into reality. It takes a whole lot of hutzpah to go from cooking in your home kitchen for your friends and your family to cooking for a crowd of strangers. I can't help but support someone turning their passions into reality... and profit!
To learn the story behind the TUM vendors, read this interesting article by Dave and find out which TUM vendor does Cancer research by day, and which one does sound for some of your favourite movies and shows produced in Toronto.
* I was a guest of TUM but the opinions expressed are my own. Pictures courtesy of Chandary Sok Photography*