In an industrial business lot in Scarborough, there’s a piece of San Fernando behind the doors of Mona’s Roti. Step inside and all you hear is noise — The sound of heaters, stoves, boiling oil, and people shouting, “I need six dhalpuri and a bag of pholourie.” Nostalgia-inducing smells of aromatic curry, tamarind, pepper and turmeric fill the air. There are a couple of tables to sit and consume a roti, but they’re rarely ever used. Mona’s is the epitome of a Caribbean takeway.
When co-owner Mona Khan and her husband, Cyrus, moved to Canada in the late 80s, she began producing hundreds of roti skins in the kitchen of her Markham home. At the time, she was feeling “homesick” after moving back and forth from the outskirts of San Fernando, Trinidad, where Mona’s began. “While we were in Trinidad, it was tough to live,” says Cyrus Khan, who helped Mona open their Marabella shop in 1983. “People from all over the island would come to us for a well-made dhalpuri.” Purchasing their current space in 2003, Mona’s quickly became the place in Scarborough for made-to-order roti.
Today, classic curry chicken in a dhalpuri shell is what people crave the most. Yet, Mona’s is famous for their baseball-sized pholourie, perfectly spiced and fried, or specials like their jerk chicken and rich, curry beef. The kingfish steaks and salt cod are also tops, paired with some pumpkin, spinach or baigan choka – a traditional roasted eggplant dish. All of this cooking commences at seven o’clock in the morning, and with many hours spent in the kitchen, and around Mona, Cyrus can attest to the passion his wife puts into the food.
“She is happy when people enjoy the food and come back with good, positive comments. She doesn’t look at the cost, or anything like that,” he says. “That well-made Creole taste you have in the Caribbean, people long for that and they love it, you know? Many people come in for a taste that they can’t get anywhere else in the city.”