This hidden store in Toronto sells nostalgic Taiwanese street food
You can now get nostalgic Taiwanese food from an accomplished but low-key chef at a new online store.
Eats by Betty is selling handmade sauces and dumplings that are made fresh then frozen, intended to be cooked at home. Options like tofu and veg, pork belly and kimchi, pork and crab, XO shrimp and lobster, and truffle chicken and cabbage dumplings as well as sauces can be ordered online for delivery.
It's named for Betty Chia, who was out of a job at the beginning of the pandemic due to lockdowns. She had been exploring foods around the world, and had just returned from Taiwan.
Her background includes culinary school in Switzerland, working her way up from cook to head chef at Origin in Toronto, and working with Cindy Fung and Neil Villasenor (who ran Pray Tell) at hospitality and event group Caviar Citizen which oversees Sixteen Ounce Prepared Meals and Preserve Indulgence Event Design & Boutique Catering.
Chia was stuck at home with her brothers, and they asked her to make a batch of dumplings, giving her the idea to make and sell them to kill time.
"I told myself that I had nothing to lose since I literally had nothing to do, so might as well," Chia tells blogTO.
She started out posting them on Instagram and giving them to industry friends, investing just $200 of her own money into ingredients from T&T, stickers and paper bags from Dollarama. She folded 700 dumplings in one night, writing every label and delivering every package by hand.
Receiving great feedback, she started taking pre-orders for two dumpling filling features every week through Instagram. Now, Eats by Betty has its own dedicated online shop taking orders until 10:30 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays for deliveries on Wednesdays and Sundays, and the store often sells out quickly.
"Our dumplings are nostalgic because most Asian immigrant families share the love language through food. Dumplings are for the times when mama is working and can't cook for you when you need a snack," says Chia.
"It's also time well spent together, sharing and making the perfect folds. I personally grew up in Taiwan until I was 10, and my grandmother was the best cook."
Chia grew up eating dumplings, stinky tofu, Peking duck, braised porkbelly rice, fried popcorn basil chicken, scallion pancakes and noodle soups as staples. Eats by Betty is influenced both by Chia's grandmother's cooking and her mother's attempt to mimic it using cookbooks she brought from Taiwan to Canada.
"Eats By Betty is a melting pot of three generations and how I've interpreted Taiwanese food from all my visits back to Taiwan. We don't preach traditional flavours but we enjoy adding a Western twist while respecting traditional techniques," Chia says.
"I want to show how proud I am to be Asian, Taiwanese to be exact," she says. "I believe good food is love, shared from stories and sentimental moments. And love is what we all need right now."
Chia is also currently working on a pop-up concept that could be either virtual or non-virtual to abide by COVID-19 restrictions, tentatively called "Dine and Dash," so watch out for that as well in the next few months.
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