Toronto Underground Market

What to expect at the Toronto Underground Market

This Saturday, the Toronto Underground Market is set to hold its first installment in a series of three events at the Brick Works. TUM organizers have collected 25 aspiring chefs, 4 brew masters and 1 winemaker and the response has been nothing but overwhelming. Tickets sold out for the inaugural TUM within days and there appears to be a healthy after-market for tickets on the event's Facebook page.

As the weekend approaches, vendors have been doing their prep work and perfecting their dishes. One vendor, Sophie Nguyen (above photo), has been cooking since she was a child. She will be serving a Vietnamese curry, a recipe she learned from her mother.

Nguyen hails from a small fishing village in southern Vietnam. She tells me that Vietnamese curry is more stew like than some other curries and is traditionally served with bread instead of rice or noodles. Like a Thai curry, there is lemongrass and coconut, but unlike a Thai curry, Nguyen's uses purple skinned yams and annatto seeds which have a peppery, slightly nutmeg like taste and gives the curry a bright golden colour.

Nguyen will be selling her curry with crusty French bread for $4. Sophie's husband will also be serving an 18-hour pulled pork sandwich with a rum chipotle BBQ sauce for $5.

Asked why she's participating in TUM, Nguyen says her goal is to expose Torontonians to authentic Vietnamese cuisine as well as do market research for a potential business. If feedback at TUM is positive, she plans to start a catering company named The Backyard Kitchen.

For her, one of the most appealing aspects of the TUM is that it allows ambitious chefs and producers to gauge the level of interest in their cuisine without great financial risk. Some chefs choose to do such research at farmers' markets but TUM is a different playground because organizers don't require a minimum percentage of farmers selling produce; it's all food vendors.

Vendors pay a fee of $150 to be part of the market, and this fee includes a vendor sign, utensils, plates, the use of a commercial kitchen and great exposure. Vendors also keep any personal sales made at the the event.

TUM is sadly sold out but runs tomorrow, Saturday, September 24 from 6-11pm.

Writing by Paul Morrow

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