A taste of India in Canada

India, Indian, food, cuisine, thali, Punjabi, curry, rotiIndian food, festivals, films and fun in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal

A SIGNIFICANT PERCENTAGE of Canada’s population is of Indian heritage, especially in Vancouver and Toronto. Restaurants, festivals, events, shops, cinemas and even entire neighbourhoods pay homage to India’s rich and colourful culture. I partnered with Expedia Canada to share some of my best suggestions for a taste of India in Canada.

VANCOUVER

The Vij empire experience

Lucky Vancouver gets not one, not two, but three restaurants run by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala (if you include the food truck, Railway Express). While their flagship Vij’s is a must-do culinary experience in Vancouver — the Indian fusion cuisine is both unique and delicious — my vote for best restaurant in Canada is My Shanti.

Grouse Mountain, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Explore Canada, Indian food, Vij's

Vikram Vij in front of My Shanti’s sequinned exterior

Located in a plaza in suburban Surrey, about an hour south of Vancouver, My Shanti serves up an exuberant fanfare of inspired Indian cuisine. The menu is a virtual gastronomic tour of India, and the flavours alone will transport you to the subcontinent, never mind the Bollywoodesque sequins and sari-fabric hangings. I wrote about My Shanti in: Spicy, Wild and Spectacular: My week in Vancouver.

For more info about Vij’s click here.

Bhangra beats in the heart of the city

What are the odds: Last summer I was staying at a hotel in downtown Vancouver and heard Bhangra music floating up from the square below. I went down to investigate and stumbled into the heart of the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration (VIBC), otherwise known as the City of Bhangra Festival. Bhangra is possibly the most joyous music on earth, so I found myself surrounded by a crowd of happy, foot-tapping people.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Explore Canada, Indian food, bhangra, bhangra festival, Punjabi, dance

City of Bhangra Festival in Vancouver

Bhangra is folk music from the Punjab region of India, so that means you will see lots of turbans, kurtis (flowing tunics) salwar kameez (three piece “suits”) and food! This is the region that gave the world butter chicken, stuffed parathas, jalebis, kulfi, lassis, tandoori cooking and much more deliciousness, so be prepared to feast. 

For more info about VIBC click here.

TORONTO

Little India in Toronto

Toronto is home to more than 7 lakh (that’s 700,000) Indo-Canadians. The original “Little India,” also called India Bazaar, is on Gerrard St. E. in the east end of the city. I visit on a regular basis to eat dosas at Udupi Palace, shop for blingy fashions and house wares and buy the latest hits on DVD. Read Top Spots in Toronto’s India Bazaar for my recommendations on where to eat and shop.

Sridevi at TIFF for English Vinglish. Photo credit: TIFF

Sridevi at TIFF for English Vinglish. Photo credit: TIFF

Hollywood Bollywood

More films are made in “Bollywood” — Mumbai, formerly Bombay — than anywhere else in the world, and they find enthusiastic audiences in Canada. From Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) premieres — featuring some of Bollywood’s top stars — to film festivals that celebrate Indian films, there’s a lot of masala films served up here in Canada, especially in Toronto.

Try the Indian International Film Festival Toronto (IIFFT) or the International Film Festival of South Asia, IIFSA (which includes the Punjab International Film Festival, PIFF). You will find yourself immersed in one of India’s favourite cultural pastimes: watching and talking about films. I have written many posts about Indian films in Canada, here’s a selected few:

For more info about TIFF click here.

Dancing with the Hare Krishnas

You cannot get closer to a taste of India than by throwing yourself into the Festival of India, organized by the Toronto chapter of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Yes, these are the famous “Hare Krishnas” and they know how to throw a party. The Festival of India is an annual extravaganza that takes place each July in Toronto, starting with a parade down Yonge Street on Saturday and then ferrying over to the verdant Toronto Island for the rest of the weekend.

Yoga Meltdown at the Festival of India, Toronto, yoga

Yoga Meltdown at the Festival of India, Toronto

For more than 40 years, people have been flocking to this joyous festival for kirtan music, a free vegetarian feast, an Indian bazaar, cultural seminars and the Yoga Meltdown, Toronto’s largest outdoor, spiritual yoga festival. I wrote about the Festival of India here.

For more info about The Festival of India click here.

MONTREAL

Yoga in the Canadian north

About an hour’s drive north of Montreal, the Laurentians are known for rolling hills, pastoral beauty, charming villages, and ski resorts. The picturesque region is also home to one of the most authentic slices of Indian culture you will find anywhere in Canada, the Sivananda Yoga Camp. Combining the best of both cultures — the beauty of Canada’s rugged wilderness and the ancient wisdom traditions of India — the Sivananda Yoga Camp offers visitors the opportunity to experience a sanctuary of peace.

Sivananda Yoga Camp, Quebec, Canada

Satsang in the big yoga hall.

Extensive grounds, vegetarian food, a Krishna temple, indoor yoga class rooms, outdoor yoga platforms, private or dormitory rooms, a swimming pool and a sauna are some of the amenities. They also offer workshops, special events and yoga teacher training. I wrote about the Sivananda Yoga Camp in Om Sweet Om: At a yoga ashram in Canada.

For more info about Sivananda Yoga Camp click here.

Note: This post was written in partnership with Expedia Canada.

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17 Responses to A taste of India in Canada

  1. Kim June 1, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    Great post. Love the pictures you added!

  2. Tushar June 4, 2015 at 12:02 am #

    Tandoori Roti, Aaloo ki Sabzi, Dal, Paneer, Saag – all shown within the photograph is personal favorite. Thanks for sharing photo. I wish I can have those dishes right now.

  3. Nagala June 5, 2015 at 12:52 am #

    It’s nice to hear about the Indian presence in Canada. Never knew this, i always thought USA has more Indian influence than Canada. Glad to see such good Desi food photos and yoga,etc.

  4. Izy Berry - The Wrong Way Home June 5, 2015 at 1:42 am #

    in Vancouver you can find many different restaurants with traditional food from all over the world. As mentioned in the article the Indian cuisine is very delicious, with different herbs and vegetables.
    Izy Berry – The Wrong Way Home recently posted..Where I Stayed in Istanbul: Mercure Taksim IstanbulMy Profile

  5. Lisa Goodmurphy June 10, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    Lots of great ideas for experiencing the culture of India while in Canada! I didn’t know about the Festival of India – we’ll have to try and check it out this summer!
    Lisa Goodmurphy recently posted..An Introduction to Skiing at The Snow Centre Near LondonMy Profile

  6. Kennedy June 21, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    An incredible post. Personally i never knew there was so much of Indian culture in Canada but now i’m aware. Indian culture is quite amazing for anyone to experience as they have nice foods as well as great films so if all this is available at Canada then it’s an adorable place to visit and enjoy all this kind of fun.

  7. Chella July 17, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

    It’s really nice experiencing another culture in a different country. Traveling in Toronto is more fun when you get the chance to taste a unique and rich Indian cuisine. Strange isn’t it?
    Chella recently posted..Dealing With Over Spending PartnerMy Profile

  8. Jared August 11, 2015 at 8:15 pm #

    Great dive into multiculturalism in Toronto! Most Americans don’t realize that Toronto is as much of a melting pot as New York. Where else have you been in the world that has Indian food that rivals India? London?

  9. Rahul Berry August 18, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

    Hi Mariellen,

    Just came from a trip of Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. Didn’t know about the retreat near Montreal as mentioned in your post. Would love to visit it in my future trip.

    Really like your website.

    Rahul
    Toronto, Canada.

  10. Gisele convites March 16, 2016 at 8:06 am #

    Mariellen, keep posting about indian culture! I adore it!

  11. Yogita Aggarwal June 1, 2016 at 1:48 pm #

    So, this blog is a proud for every Indian. I was aware with the popularity of Indian food and your this blog is the perfect proud for every Indian cook.

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