In 1951 Fooad Haba did an Aliyah. That is to say, his father Sason packed up the family and moved them from their native Iraq to the holy land, Israel. A baker by trade, Sason brought his taboon and established the first Iraqi bakery near Mahane Yehudah Market (referred to as The Shuk) in Jerusalem. Sason also brought with him generations of experience as a baker. Which he would pass on to Fooad. The bakery specialized in the popular Iraqi bread, Laffa.
Eventually Fooad's son, Sasi would settle in Canada. First in Montreal and eventually, Toronto. Having turned his back on his baking heritage Sasi worked many different jobs. In the fall of 2008, while working for a pool company, the jobs ran out. At the urging of his father, he decided to get into the bread business. He brought the taboon with him and his father would teach him the ropes. With his business partner, Yoram Gaby (a baker as well) they opened Dr. Laffa. Serving some of the most authentic Israeli food in the GTA. In fact some say the best anywhere outside Israel.
Dr. Laffa sits in an industrial area just inside Toronto’s northern boundry.
There’s a fairly small dining room and plenty of room for those there to get take away. The star of the show though is the taboon that's in the open kitchen. So let's get a look at what's cooking.
Laffa, for those who don't know about his unique and rare bread, is of Iraqi heritage and is cooked on a taboon. It's a fair bit larger than a regular pita, is quite light and fluffy on the A side and crisp and golden brown on the B side. It doesn't tear easily and is, if flattened, rather thin. It puffs or blisters, up quite a bit when baked and doesn't have much flavour. It really doesn't need much though, it's more or less a canvas on which other things shine. Seeing as how bread is my favourite food, I still love it.
Your greeted at the table with a selection of pickles. Cucumbers, carrots and cabbage. The slaw is fine as are the carrots. The pickles are quite nice though. They’re half sour and have some nice crunch.
Shakshuka is a dish that's North African in origin and very common for breakfast in the Middle East. It's name is derived from a common last name in Tunisia, Chakchouk. That said, Turkey and Yemen also lay claim. Given that it reminded me of the Merguese sausage dish I had at a Tunisian restaurant, I'll go with the former.
Basically, it's eggs poached in a mildly seasoned (with harrisa) tomato broth that's loaded with chilies (mild ones), onions and roasted garlic. Quite frankly, there's a ton going on in this dish.
The Shakshuka Special, which is what I had is the basic dish with the addition of Merges sausage. This Middle Eastern lamb sausage is highly seasoned and incredibly tasty. Pretty much every bite with this dish is different. A deep, rich tomato flavour permeates, sometimes a bit garlicky, other times rich from the egg yolk. A hint of spice once in a while or sweet from a different chili. Just an incredible dish that's comfort food at it's best. Mostly served in the winter months in Israel.
The Shawarma meat was something I've never seen. Instead of the usual chicken, Dr. Laffa was using turkey. The turkey was embedded with lamb fat as it's basting agent. The meat wasn't heavily seasoned but more left to stand on it's own merits. The sandwich was stuffed into a laffa with a nice mixture of sauces and vegetation. I think my bread of choice for shawarma is still pita but this was a nice change. All in all, this was a great sandwich. And big too. No, not big, HUGE!!
In the run up to, and during Chanukah, Jews will often eat things deep fried.
Commemorating the miracle of the temple oil. Sufganiyah (SOOF-gone-ee-AH) are traditional jelly filled donuts that fit this bill nicely. Dough balls are fried, filled with jelly and topped with powdered sugar. These specimens are good but I think could be better. For me, there wasn’t enough jelly in them. Outside of that, I really liked them. I found them a bit more savoury than most donuts and to a degree, a bit more like bread than donut. These are totally not like the light, airy Krispy Kreme Original Glaze donuts. They’re denser and savoury balanced out the powdered sugar nicely. I rather enjoyed the chewiness.
Baklava is a traditional dessert all over the Middle East. Chopped pistachios are sandwiched between layers of phyllo or, as in the case here, dressed up a bit more nicely. There’s plenty of sugar, usually in the form of honey to sweeten these up. While I really like baklava, I don’t love it. These specimens here are among the best I’ve had though.
Well there you have it folks, a little taste of Israel right here in TO.
You can find Dr. Laffa at 401 Magnetic Dr in Toronto.
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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
Well that’s all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.