Every once in a while the Toronto Food Blog comes across a place we like so much that we can’t wait to tell everyone about it. Banahaw Foodmart is one of those places. Half bodega, half Filipino kitchen, Laila and Keith (mom & pop) are doing their absolute best keep the Dawes Road neighborhood well fed… at a time where some of the most vulnerable really need it. The Toronto Food Blog is doing it’s best to help support local food businesses in this time of need. We’d encourage y’all to do the same. I’m pleased to say that these guys are about as local as it gets for me these days.
Laila, a former nurse and exceptional home cook, spends most of the day in her kitchen preparing dishes in small batches. Her husband Keith will visit various butchers and markets to source the freshest daily ingredients. Together, they put on a spread of stews, fried & grilled meats and Pinoy side dishes. As offerings begin to quickly sell-out, Laila will head to the back and fire-up something new in her wok. So you never really know what you’re going to get when you walk in there. And I like it that way. One of the reasons I keep coming back.
Favourite thing on the menu you ask? It all depends on which of my family members is doing the ordering. My kids, for instance, absolutely love the Beef Caldereta; specifically, the garlicky gravy and rice combination. They can literally finish off an adult serving in no time flat.
My wife is more of a chicken fan, and Laila’s Chicken Adobo is stick-to-your-ribs kinda stuff. It’s full of potatoes and skews slightly sweet. My go-to order is their Bicol Express. This pork-tenderloin stew comes loaded with sweet peppers in a coconut milk & shrimp paste gravy.
Half & half servings are always available, too, so you can be adventurous and try a couple of different things. The portions are substantial and come in takeaway containers for about $10. Real easy to get #lunchunder10bucks here!
And then there are the noodles! One of the most popular dishes in the Philippines has to be Pancit. Laila’s version is mild and garlicky with shredded chicken and chewy tofu. This is a real winner with my kids. “More noodles, please, Dad!” isn’t an uncommon request around our dinner table when we takeaway from Banahaw. The noodle dish I prefer, however, has to be their Palabok. Noodles with eggs and pork belly? Yes, please! I’ll always leave a little leftover for breakfast the next day.
The shelves are also stocked with Filipino groceries and specialty ingredients. I recently purchased some Suka Pinakurat, which is an extremely spicy coconut vinegar that Laila serves as a dip for her famous Chicharrón (fried pork rinds). I applied it liberally after we pulled a pork shoulder out of the smoker, adding another layer of complexity to our DIY carnitas.
Keith tells me they’re not really in it for the money. Instead, they wanted to create a meeting place where Laila’s labour of love could feed a neighbourhood… a little Dos Passos throwback, East York style, if you ask me.
“Work to eat to get the strength to work to eat…”