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This is the second of a series of eating east Asian cuisine in Toronto by flashbracket.

Banh Mi Boys
Location Reviewed:
399 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M5B 1S9
(416) 977-0303
www.banhmiboys.com

During the past few visits to Toronto I would make my way to Banh Mi Boys. Their Yonge street location, south of College, is just around the corner from where I often stay and I first stepped foot into the busy eatery when I met up with a friend for lunch. I had been hearing about this place for a while now but hadn’t thought much of it. I love banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich on a French baguette, and the thought of leaving Chinatown and paying more than four dollars for this half-foot sandwich seemed ridiculous to me. I would had never guessed that my dreams of eating dirty fast food would somehow become fulfilled from eating non-greasy Asian fusion grub in a sleek and trendy setting.

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The Yonge street location store front. Top Photo: Clockwise from top left – Five Spice Pork Belly Banh Mi, Tofu Fries, Tofu Taco, Panko Tofu Steamed Bao.

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This is the first of a series of eating east Asian cuisine in Toronto by flashbracket.

Kingyo Toronto
51B Winchester Street
Toronto, ON M4X 1R7
(647) 748-2121
www.kingyotoronto.ca

Where do I start with Kingyo? In a market full of excellent east Asian cuisine — Toronto that is, and definitely not Montréal — I often feel a bit overwhelmed trying to keep up with all the great restaurants serving Chinese dim sum, Korean barbecue, and Japanese ramen. I travel back to my hometown of Toronto whenever I can, and each time I’m back in town my family and friends are holding a list of places that we need to try, or restaurants they really want to go back to and know that I would be down for some good eats. Kingyo, a Vancouver inception, opened their Toronto outpost at the end of 2012 but I only made my way over to its Cabbagetown location earlier this year. So I am about a year late in the game. But I am glad that, since my first visit, I kept coming back to this restaurant serving Japanese bar food just about every time I was back in Hogtown. And every time I’m back on the train headed to Montréal I still think about my favourite meals and Kingyo is always one of them.

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Omma
177 rue Bernard Ouest
Montréal, Québec H2T 2K4
(514) 274-1464
www.restaurantomma.com

Since moving to Montréal a few years ago, I have accepted a few culinary facts about the city:
(1) The baguettes are always amazing
(2) “Vegetarian? No problem, we have fish!”
(3) The quality of Korean restaurants are dreadful

File this under complaint number 8,356 about the gaping hole of good ethnic eats in la belle province. Alas, I have come to terms with the lack of quality and authentic Korean restaurants in Montréal with heavy pangs in my heart. I get it, I was spoiled with an excellent array of Korean food during the first twenty years of my life as I grew up in the Toronto suburbs where a subpar Korean restaurant would never last more than a year. Torontonians, both those of Korean heritage and seasoned Korean food diners, demand some decency when grabbing Korean grub, whether it is Korean barbecue, KFC (aka Korean Fried Chicken), hipster Korean tacos, momofuku (or those inspired by the inventive Japanese-Korean fusion eating trend), late-night pork bone soup, or just a traditional eatery. See? So many different types of Korean restaurants are out there! Why not bring some good ones to Montréal, I ask?

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Dol sot Bibimbap (top) with sweetened hot sauce, Kimchi Combo side (middle), and Spicy Lamb or Agneau épicé (bottom)
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Happy Lunar New Year! The new year according to the lunar calendar is also known as “Chinese New Year” for those of us in English-speaking countries. Koreans, just like the Chinese, traditionally followed the lunar calendar before adopting the Gregorian calendar of the west, so we Koreans refer to the same horoscopes as the Chinese. For 2014, we celebrate the Year of the Horse, and apparently it is the year of the “Blue Horse” for this cycle. According to the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), the Blue Horse, unlike a regular horse horoscope character, comes around every 60 years. This is just as unique as the two other “special” horoscopes that I am aware of — The Golden Pig, which happens to be my dad, and the White Horse, which happens to be my sister.

The Lunar New Year is a very big event in Korea; it is considered the most important holiday of all, besides Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving in the fall. And holidays in Korea mean family and food, not unlike the celebratory traditions of many other cultures. So what does my family do? We make a feast. But what do Korean people make at home to feed a crowd? I am the kind of person who asks my friends from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds what their families make at home, so I thought others may be interested in what the dinner table looks like for Korean-Canadian families. So here it is.

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“Kalbi” or barbecue short ribs

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As an exclusive user of virtual calendars, contact lists, and notes, I have come back to the fold of paper-based agendas. How did this happen?

Two years ago, I went to Indigo Bookstore here in Montréal in search of a proper, physical agenda — paper ones that you can actually write with a pen. A sales associate showed me their current collection which was a measly three or four hard cover books that did not meet my size and content specifications. Since then, I have relied entirely on my Google Calendar, Google Tasks, Google Contacts, and Apple Notes. I used to have both a paper agenda and my virtual organization platforms that I would access with my laptop. But once I got a smartphone, I transitioned entirely to the virtual agenda. I thought to myself, “How on earth did I live without a smartphone?!”

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My dad in Banff, Alberta, as a recent single parent

Is it enough to only have a father?

I have a mother, of course, but she died more than a decade ago. And since my undergraduate university years, my dad has fronted the parent fort, watching my sister and I go through years of tuition fees and multiple boyfriends. And as much as I felt the gap left by the absence of a parental figure, I never thought I lacked a looming force of authority in the family. A feminine one.

But I often rethink this when certain people react to the fact that my sister were still relatively young when our mother passed, and we are guided by only our father at the helm. For example, when I was working full-time in Toronto I worked with “Tom” who was nearing his retirement, an older gentleman in his 70’s. This was at a financial firm and the recession of 2008 hit us big, meaning Tom had too much nervous energy and time to wring his hands, filling his days with multiple coffee breaks and some times intrusive chatter. Tom often barged into the office I shared with two other co-workers, all female, and we would all politely listen to Tom’s banter while multitasking on Excel sheets. He was an interesting character, an old-fashioned but a vehement feminist, shaking his head with emotion as he talked (yelled?) about how “Women are going to rule the world!” and “Children are nothing without women!” The latter statement being not really a feminist one … but Tom meant well.

I had to graciously interrupt him, however, when Tom minimized the role of fathers, to phrase it nicely.

“Well, I only have a dad and I think I turned out OK,” I chirped in, smiling.

Tom did not expect that, and he became flustered, repositioning his head back inwards after stretching it out and wide for his rants. And then it became awkward at the office between me and Tom, that is, until I soon packed my bags and moved to Montréal.

I knew Tom was only trying to extol the place of women in society, but he was falling into that belief that women are better parents than men. And such perspectives embrace women as “natural” caretakers, caregivers, and parents unlike men, whose natural space is elsewhere, usually at an office where he can bring home the bacon. This belief is very hardwired in Korea, where I was born, but as I was raised in Toronto I was not aware that Korean culture perceives children without mothers with a critical eye. So when my mom died my dad warned me that other Koreans may see me differently, that they would think that my character and foundation was lacking because I did not have a mom. And this meant, to some Koreans, that I was not marriage material. (Not that I really care about my grading on the marriage-worthiness scale. Plus I was never meant to marry a guy straight from Korea and not raised in this culture.)

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Did you know that May is Asian Heritage Month here in Canada?

I did, but it took forever for me to write a post about this month despite the fact that I am Canadian and Asian. But here is a music video worth sharing by a Korean rock band called Jan Kiha and the Faces for their song, That Sucks. Though I am ethnically Korean, I have never heard of the band — I do not follow any Korean musicians except for Psy, but this is not exactly extraordinary since everyone knows of Psy! Also, I cannot decipher what exactly the band is singing about, but nevermind the lyrics (though the tune is catchy). Look at the food porn!

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