In this post, our foodie trio #JoyDiaggi was exploring more of Surrey through the following mini street food trail experience.
We were invited by Tourism Surrey to take a deep dive into the heart of South Asian culture in Western Canada infamous Payal Plaza. Here we would enjoy a plethora of unique flavours from the streets of India with four delicious food stops, as recommended by the city. They are all part of the Spice Trail, a self guided tour of recommended restaurants that are accessible and within walking distance of one another. Branded as lots of experiences in a small area, many either emerging businesses or ones off the beaten path, you might not otherwise find.
The reality is, many of us less familiar with the culture and unable to speak the language may not think to causally visit one of Surrey’s numerous Indian restaurants. I myself included. So this tour was a great way to make that experience more approachable. As they put it, “Reduce barrier to entry”. Many of the restaurants that are listed on this food tour do not know they are on it. The language barrier makes it difficult, but that doesn’t stop the Discover Surrey team from visiting these places themselves and promoting these mom and pop small businesses and telling their stories.
Our first stop was Apna Chaat Express located in an outdoor plaza. They actually have two locations a few shops apart. We would visit their Express one, focused on offering the most authentic golgappa experience in Surrey.
“Golgappa” also known as “Panipuri”. This is a “deep-fried breaded sphere filled with potato, onion, or chickpea. It is a common street food in the Indian subcontinent, often spiced with tamarind chutney, chilli”. (As taken from Wikipedia). Here, you eat it as the locals do: standing up, one at a time, with your choice of sauces filed to order.
For the full experience and the only standing golgappa service in town, visit the separate link below.
Apna Chaat Express
7500 120 St #201, Surrey, BC V3W 3N1
Our second stop on our day of touring Surrey for its street eats was Chacha’s Tandoor and Grill for a full sit down lunch. Named after the owner’s uncle whose dream was to open his own restaurant. They offer a modern approach and setting for their traditional Indian cuisine.
The restaurant is a family affair where the Uncle aka “Chacha” often jumps into the kitchen to prepare the very dishes he has help create for the menu. Overall, this was a meal so good, that we three decided to add it to our #JoyDiaggi can recommend list.
For all that we tried and their tasting notes, visit the full and separate post for the detailed review.
Chachas Tandoor and Grill
12855 80 Ave Unit 101, Surrey, BC V3W 4E9
After this we were pretty full, so transitioned to dessert with a stop at Chaiiwala of London. A popular Indian cafe originating in London, with handful of locations in and around Surrey and Langley.
Chaiiwala of London is named after the Chaiiwala family, who can trace their tea house beginnings back 90 years ago to a small tea stall operated by their grandfather in the markets of Delhi. They are well known for their closely guarded Karak Chai recipe, but have 12 different hot beverages and 12 different cold ones on menu to try today. Not to mention all the ways to customize each to your pretence, meaning the possibilities are endless, and you are sure to find your ideal cup of tea here.
Looking for something more substantial to have with your tea, then look to their all day breakfast menu, their list of street bites; or an assortment of burgers, rolls, and wraps. But it doesn’t end there, you can also order 7 different types of roti, plus desserts and ice cream to round out your meal. Shame we were too full to have much of it.
We did try a couple of their classic chais, and I had to try the novelty of their pink chai cold as a frappe. The former was warm and comforting, the latter more like a fun dessert. In reality proper chai takes a long time to make as it needs to get to a rolling boil. Here, given it is a cafe and there is a need for quick turn around, they have their chai kept warm on tap for ease and speed.
And as full as we were, we could not walk away without trying their gulab jamun cheesecake, proudly displayed in their glass showcase up front. This was a unique combination of two well known and popular desserts merged into one. Whole syrupy balls embedded into a dense New York style cheesecake with graham cracker crust.
Chaiiwala of London – Little India
12855 80 Ave, Surrey, BC V3W
Our final stop would be Aggarwal Sweets, a large gift shop, cafe, and sweet shop spanning three store fronts. As someone unfamiliar to the culture and cuisine, it can be intimidating to walk into, especially with the lack of English signs and the language barrier.
Thankfully traditional Indian sweets are eye catching and easy enough to point to and ask for from behind the showcase. However, sadly none of it was labeled and there were no descriptions to inform you what it was or how it would taste. So if you have dietary restrictions, this might be a challenge for you. You could ask the staff for help, but as was our case, we did not want to tie up the clerk’s time asking them what each item was.
Majority of these sweets you can order piece by piece, but a few are by the pound and resemble loose crumb and/or ground up dough. We would order with our eyes, then sit down to assess what it is we had before us colourful in takeaway boxes. The experience was like eating from a box of chocolates. You pick one and hope for the best, but without a photo guide to discern what was what.
What I can conclude is that Indian sweets are not like Western desserts. Things are not overly sugary or rich with a melty coating or gooey centre. There is no chocolate and no cream. Majority of things were gritty in texture, dry and dense to bite into. And most of what we had reminded me of shredded coconut in texture, but not in taste. A few were aggressively minty and acted more like edible mouth wash.
These are the sort of sweets you have with tea, something to nibble on as you sit and chat. Not a sweet treat to end your meal on, but a completely different experience all its own. If you have never tried, I recommend that you do, just to say that you have.
8158 128 St, Surrey, BC V3W 1R1
In closing, the Spice Trail is Surrey’s way of answering the question of what to eat in their city. An ideal guide for those visiting or living there, that are too intimidated to walk into South Asian shops with no English signs, and service folks don’t speak the same language. Many located in the popular Payal Plaza, which features the largest selection of Indian shopping in the entire province. Not a traditional market, but one showcasing the heart of South Asian culture in Canada, in its maze-like strip mall.