Hot summer days call for cold, refreshing treats. Sure, you could indulge in the conventional scoop of ice cream or popsicle, but Toronto is home to one of the most diverse culinary scenes on the planet so we’re shaking things up and featuring desserts with an international spin. Go on, grab a few friends and try something different this summer — your taste buds will thank you!
Halo-Halo – Kanto By Tita Flips At Market 707
Halo-Halo, which translates to mix-mix, is a Filipino dessert that will have you smiling from ear to ear. The cold, colourful treat is piled high with layers of tropical fruit, coconut jellies, sweet corn, red beans and shaved ice and then topped with crispy rice, purple yam and leche flan. Yum! For the best in the city, I recommend heading to Market 707 (a collection of upcycled shipping containers on Dundas St. West) and stopping by Kanto by Tita Flips. These guys led the way in bringing Filipino street food to Toronto and whip up some authentic, drool-worthy dishes. Ask for two spoons because their traditional Halo-Halo is definitely one you’ll want to share.
Kulfi – Lahore Tikka House
Lahore Tikka House is somewhat of an institution in our vibrant Little India neighbourhood. Greeted by rickshaws, a mural of the Taj Mahal and lively music as soon as you step foot inside, you’ll immediately feel like you’ve teleported out of Toronto. The restaurant is a hub for the South Asian community and the place to head for house-made kulfi (aka ice cream made with sweet cream milk). I recommend ordering the traditional Lahori Kulfi, which is flavoured with cardamom and almond, but mango and pistachio are also tasty.
Mochi – HCafé
If you haven’t tried mochi, you’re missing out! It’s a popular dessert made by pounding rice into a stretchy paste that’s often coated with icing sugar and filled with ingredients like red bean paste or fruit. HCafé at Yonge and Sheppard serves up some amazing handmade Daifuku and Sakura mochi (there are several different types of mochi) — I recommend trying the strawberry or kiwi Daifuku. Made fresh daily, these desserts are meant to be enjoyed immediately after purchase.
Bastani Akbar Mashdi – The Pomegranate
Exotic ice cream anyone? Try the Persian variety at The Pomegranate on College St. The ultra creamy treat (bastani in Farsi) is made using rose water and saffron and topped with dried rose petals, pistachio and pomegranate seeds. Enjoy the dessert after devouring a meal surrounded by traditional Iranian décor and music at this gem of a restaurant in the heart of Little Italy. It’s a great spot for authentic Persian cuisine, especially if you don’t want to trek to Richmond Hill/North York.
Gelato – Bar Ape
Whether you like your gelato in bar or soft serve form, head to Bar Ape for some of the best in the city. These guys started off driving an ape (the cutest three-wheeled Italian vehicle) around town and now have a brick and mortar building at Rushton and St. Clair. They’re popular and for good reason: they’re incredibly passionate, use quality ingredients and come up with unique flavours (which change weekly on Wednesdays). You’ll likely have to wait in a line for this stuff but it’s worth it. Try their Pistachio gelato bars or mango chocolate twist if they’re available when you pop by.
Bingsu – Dear Fro
The wall says it all at Dear Fro: Treat Yo’ Self. That’s exactly what you’ll do when you pop by the Korean dessert spot in Scarborough. The mound of shaved ice (they make theirs with milk) is a feast for the eyes and large enough to share. Try the limited edition Coconut Grey Bingsu or Earl Grey Tea Bingsu this summer. The latter is my pick with chunks of fresh mango and roasted toast that are topped with shaved ice, almond slices and coconut mochi. Don’t forget to drizzle a bit of syrup on top! You can file this one under epic-looking desserts.
About the Author
Solmaz, also known as The Curious Creature, is a full-time food and travel blogger based in Toronto. She has travelled to more than 35 countries and is a firm believer that food plays an essential role in exploring a new destination. Follow her adventures at The Curious Creature.