Street food under $10: We tried 11 desi-licious eats in Toronto’s Little India

Toronto is known for its diverse and immigrant-driven food scene, with tons of authentic street food joints that serve up cuisines from all over the world.

Whether you’re in Little Italy for some decadent cake or in Koreatown for a bowl of mouthwatering japchae, there’s something new to discover every day.

But with inflation hitting record highs, rents soaring beyond the heavens, and the general impact of the pandemic, many beloved restaurants have closed. Consumers are also more and more concerned with budgeting their money, and are becoming more careful when spending on non-essentials.

Luckily, there are still some spots in the city that are ready to spoil Torontonians’ rising tastebuds for less, despite grocery prices.

We went on a food tour of Gerrard Street East’s Little India strip over the weekend, and tried over a dozen delicious items from different restaurants. Many of the street eats were affordable enough to inspire us to create a list of stuff you can get for under $10.

Pro-tip: If you pay in cash, you might not even have to pay tax! But you didn’t hear that from us. πŸ‘€

So grab a friend or a date, and head over to Little India for an unforgettable experience. Here are some of our low-cost faves:

Steamed chicken/beef momos β€” $9.99

Imaan Sheikh/Daily Khiva

Momos are one of many desi dumpling types with Nepalese and Tibetan origins, and are ordinarily sold as street food across South Asia.

You can buy them steamed or fried, and they’re filled with veggies, chicken, or beef. The dumplings are served with a variety of sweet and sour tamarind, garlic, or red chilli pepper-based chutneys. Plus, you get a pretty sizeable portion when you order a serving at Karma’s Kitchen.

Other notable menu items under $10 include their dry veg Manchurian, chicken or beef fried rice, and crispy cauliflower.

Where: Karma’s Kitchen β€” 1411 Gerrard Street East
When: 2 to 10 pm on weekdays, 11 am to 11 pm on weekends

Gol Guppay β€” $6 to $8

street food

Imaan Sheikh/Daily Khiva

If you haven’t tried gol guppay, you’re missing out majorly. Little balls of dough are rolled thinly and fried until they puff up and become hollow shells, ready to be filled with boiled lentils, cubed potatoes, crispy fried chickpea noodles (sev), chopped onion, and chaat masala.

But you don’t eat them dry. The dish comes with a little bowl of spiced β€œwater” seasoned with cumin, ginger, tamarind, lemon, and totally other aromatics that make the snack addictive.

You simply tap the top of a gol guppay to break it, fill it with your stuffing of choice, and either dunk the crispy ball into the spicy liquid to fill it, or use a spoon to do so. Then, you put the entire gol guppa in your mouth β€” no little bites!

Gol guppay comes with chutney and raita. The latter is a refreshingly minty yogurt-based sauce that can help calm the burn if your spice tolerance is low.

At Desi Burger, you can get a plate of empty or filled gol guppay for $6 and $8, respectively.

Where: Desi Burger β€” 1342 Gerrard Street East
When: 2 pm – 4 am, seven days a week

Fresh green coconut water (with jelly) β€” $3.99

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It doesn’t get more tropical than coconut water straight out of a young, green coconut itself.

This treat is a two-in-one. First, you drink all the coco water, which is loaded with electrolytes and tastes like a dream; second, you ask your server to cut the top of the fruit or split it in half to reveal the layer of pure coconut jelly inside.

Grab a spoon and get scooping! King’s Karahi also offers $5 masala fries, and young coconut water is perfect to wash it all down.

Where: King’s Karahi β€” 1330 Gerrard Street East
When: 4 pm to 3 am all week (closes 2 am on Mondays)

Lahori lassi β€” $3.99

street food

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A perfectly summery yogurt drink, lassi can be sweet or salty, and you can customize it with fruits like mango, banana, and strawberry. The frothy, icy drink can be quite filling, so make sure you ration your appetite accordingly.

It’s a staple in many Pakistani and Indian homes, and is often consumed with or after a meal to beat the heat.

Where: Lahore Chaat House β€” 1344 Gerrard Street East
When: Noon to 4 am, seven days a week

Hello chicken burger with egg β€” $4.49

A delicious fried patty made with potatoes and shredded chicken is topped with a fried egg and sandwiched in a hot sesame bun to create this spicy burger.

It has a slice of fresh tomato, onions, cucumber, minty yogurt raita, and tangy tamarind chutney inside, so each bite is a burst of fresh flavors.

It goes really well with a creamy lassi or sugarcane juice, and is a popular choice for lunch or a mid-shopping snack break for many South Asians.

Where: Lahore Chaat House β€” 1344 Gerrard Street East
When: Noon to 4 am, seven days a week

Bhutta/chhalli β€” $3

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An ear of whole corn is grilled over an open fire, releasing sweet juices from the kernels. It is then rubbed with lemon, chilli powder, and salt, and sometimes buttered to develop a layered melange of flavors.

You’ve never tried corn like this before, it’s basically the South Asian cousin of spicy Mexican elote. The char from all that smoky barbecuing gives the corn a taste you simply cannot replicate at home.

Where: Desi Burger β€” 1342 Gerrard Street East
When: 2 pm to 4 am, seven days a week

Falooda β€” $5 to $9

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Falooda is a decadent, creamy dessert made with kulfi, glass noodles, basil seeds, rose syrup, nuts, and fruit.

Kulfi is a milk-based South Asian frozen treat that comes in many flavours, including fruity ones, but is classically saffron or pistachio flavoured.

Of all the things we recommend on this list, this bad boy is an absolute must-try. You can get the lighter Royal Falooda ($5), or the richer Rabri Falooda ($9). Rabri is made with milk cooked for hours and condensed, flavored with jaggery and nuts, and served ice cold.

Where: Desi Burger β€” 1342 Gerrard Street East
When: 2 pm to 4 am, seven days a week

Freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice

street food

Imaan Sheikh/Daily Khiva

Fresh sugarcane juice is practically nature’s energy drink, and will get you bumped and ready to take on the day. It has a sweet, bamboo-y taste and is best served chilled.

Watching your order be squeezed out of the sweet canes right in front of your eyes is an added bonus!

The best part? It’s only $3.99. That’s less than the price of many packaged juices.

Where: Lahore Chaat House β€” 1344 Gerrard Street East
When: Noon to 4 am, seven days a week

Paan β€” $2.50 to $5

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Paan is a chewable mouth freshener made with a betel leaf filled with desiccated coconut, aniseed, gulqand (rose jam), and different types of seeds, nuts, and dried fruits that give it a unique taste.

It tastes quite floral and may not be for everyone, but there are so many varieties of this palate cleanser, you might like one of them! We recommend meetha (sweet) paan to beginners. It’s served at weddings and festivals, and is especially enjoyed when Eid time rolls around in Pakistan and India.

You can even get it in chocolate flavor at Baldev Paan & Cold Drink House, which has been given an award for the best paan in all of North America.

Where: Baldev Paan & Cold Drink House β€” 1399 Gerrard Street East
When: 1 pm to 1 am, seven days a week

Kashmiri chai β€” $2

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Also known as noon chai, this sweet milk tea from the region of Kashmir has a gorgeous millennial pink hue. It’s made with loose-leaf green tea and no food dyes are used to color it pink.

Instead, special cooking techniques give it its recognizable colour. The tea is shocked repeatedly with ice mid-boil, releasing the pink tint. It also uses salt and a little bit of baking soda, which gives it a frothy consistency.

You can try it with crushed pistachios that float on top and give the hot beverage a little bit of crunch. If Kashmiri chai is not your cup of tea (sorry), try out some regular chai or amp things up with a masala chai. South Asian parents swear that it gets rid of headaches and exhaustion, and they’re right.

Where: Desi Burger β€” 1342 Gerrard Street East
When: 2 pm to 4 am, seven days a week

Chaat papri β€” $6

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Few things beat the crunch and tang of a scrumptious bite of chaat.

While there are several kinds of chaat, the papri version has a ton of crispy fried dough. If you love the flaky crust of a potato samosa, you’re going to love this dish.

Chaat is vegetarian and comes loaded with fried flour noodles, potatoes, crushed gol guppay shells, spiced chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, and coriander, with a drizzle of lemon, beaten yogurt, and, sweet and spicy chutneys to your liking. Chaat masala on top completes the dish. You can even get some toasted peanuts, if you ask!

Where: Lahore Chaat House β€” 1344 Gerrard Street East
When: Noon to 4 am, seven days a week