The smell of caramelized onions with an aromatic blend of garlic, ginger, coriander and her mom's masala spice pulls Manjot Bains back into her parents' kitchen, wherever she is.
When Bains moved from Burnaby, B.C. to Toronto for a few years, homesickness came in waves. So she rolled up her sleeves in the kitchen and attempted to replicate her mother's chickpea dahl.
"It's that connection to home," said Bains, a Vancouver-based communications specialist and editorial director of JugniStyle.com. To her, good Indian food is made-from-scratch dishes that "hit all the familiar flavour notes on your tongue."
Bains, who is in her late 20s, is part of the most diverse generation of Canadians this country has ever seen. Today, almost one in five Canadians identify with a visible minority group. By 2031, that number is expected to increase to one in three.
These children of boomer immigrants from Eastern Europe, South America and Asia are changing Canada’s food culture as we know it.
Millennials are demanding more variety made from more natural ingredients. Their tastes and meals are incredibly multicultural — just like them.
Today, just walking down Granville Street in Vancouver's entertainment strip will yield you sushi, crepes, lachmacun, and shawarma.
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Torontonian minds were blown when Vancouver-based, Japanese izakaya chain Guu landed in the GTA. There's more to Japanese food than sushi and tempura? Hurray! There's more to Japanese food than sushi and tempura!
Can't enjoy ice cream because of that pesky dairy intolerance? No fear! There are more tasty dairy-free ice cream options from than ever before with more and more millennials coming to grips with their dietary restrictions. Vegan chocolate ice cream is an example from Vancouver-based Earnest Ice Cream.
The dining buzzwords are "sustainable," "ethical" and who better champions this than Austin-based Whole Foods Markets? For west coasters, sustainable sockeye salmon is caught and sold fresh.
If it's colourful and locally grown, you've got the full attention of health- and eco-conscious Gen Y. Carrots from North Arm Farm in Pemberton, B.C.
For those who can't cook it from scratch, Tasty Bite is a line of "heat & eat" pouch Indian food you drop into boiling water. Sold at Whole Foods Market.
Locked down to your laptop with a bad case of wanderlust, Gen Yer? No fear, Paris comes to Canada when you nibble on macarons made popular by a certain gossipy show.
It's chow time all the time at Toronto's Banh Mi Boys. Taiwanese street food staples are given fused with North American tastes, much to the excitement of Gen Yers. Pictured: banh mi sandwich, Asian tacos, steamed bao.
Founded in 1869, Campbell's Soup wants to stay hip, appealing and profitable. The company's new line of Go soups — like golden lentil with madras curry — is hoping to cater to on-the-go Gen Yers' multicultural tastes.
Not your average Taco Bell offering, these tacos are small packages of deliciousness packed with fresh ingredients and authentic flavours. Plus, these taco places make good instagram posts too. Am I right?
Let's not question how this doughnut renaissance happened, but it did, and that's all you need to know. Independent doughnut shops across Canada are popping up and making small batch versions (in wild flavours) of your favorite beautiful deep fried treat.
Move over shawarma and falafel (but not too far), the demand for laffa is growing. Similar to naan, laffa is a Middle Eastern bread made in a hot taboon oven. Dip it in hummus or replace the pita in your shawarma or falafel.
In case you've never met, this is shakshuka and it's delicious. Gen Y, take note that minus the sausage in this pictured version, it's healthy, vegetarian and kosher.
This isn't the stuff you survived on in university. Ramen shops are making their way across the ocean and touching down across Canada, much to our delight. Not-too-chewy noodles, fresh vegetables and deep, flavourful broth have us patting our bellies full.
"A lot of the curries, butter chicken has become very mainstream," says Graydon Lau, managing director of Toronto-based DACS Marketing & Sponsorship, of the ethnic food boom. "We didn't have Indian 20 years ago."
Lau worked on a recent Canadian frozen pizza campaign, aimed specifically at second-generation Italian consumers. "It's got all the authentic qualities of an Italian pizza. But you don't have to sit there like your momma did and knead the bread to make the dough,” he explains.
The authenticity of real pizza isn’t just for Italian descendants. Jeffery Chong, 25, enjoys the procedure of kneading dough, preparing the tomato sauce and customizing his toppings
Chong, an only child of Canadian-born Chinese parents, grew up in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood. One of his childhood favourites wasn't anything particularly spicy or exotic — it was cooked vegetables on a bed of rice smothered with Campbell's cream of mushroom soup.
Even huge multinational companies like Campbell’s are evolving along with millennials’ tastes.
In 2011, desperate to stay relevant to this new generation of consumers, the company hired a team of anthropologists to follow millennials as they shopped in grocery stores and ate in restaurants. The researchers even staked out an Urban Outfitters store to collect notes on their consumer habits, according to the Associated Press.
Their conclusions: once-upon-a-time exotic flavours like Indian and Thai are now commonplace. Also, years of dining out meant that millennials are terrible in the kitchen, especially with ethnic meals that have to be made from scratch.
With that in mind, a new line of soups called Campbell’s Go was launched this summer. They’re unabashedly designed to match where some millennials fall short in the kitchen. The metal can is replaced with a microwavable pouch. You don’t even need to add water.
And forget plain ol’ salty chicken noodle. There's Moroccan-style chicken with chickpeas, creamy red pepper with smoked gouda, and golden lentil with madras curry.
Those modern flavours resonate with Bains, who also grew up with Campbell's soup.
"It's so gross," Bains says of the old canned flavours. "You want to have diversity; you want to try new things."
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