FLAVOUR Packed tightly into a maze of narrow and busy streets are bins brimming with exotic foods and one-of-a-kind boutiques in Chinatown and nearby Kensington Market.
GETTING THERE From St. Patrick subway station take the Dundas streetcar or walk west to Spadina Avenue.
THE CLOCK Most shops open early and close late, until 9 or 10 p.m. daily.
WHAT TO DO For a leisurely lunch, try dim sum—bite-sized eats served steaming hot in wooden baskets. Visit a Chinese herb shop to look at and smell the various dried goods used for cooking and medicinal purposes. Walk along the streets and see what the vendors crowded onto the sidewalk are selling. Find everything from straw mats to incense to a sticky rice pastry wrapped in banana leaves. For an artsy experience, peruse the exhibits at the Art Gallery of Ontario, like the collection of works by Canadian artist Tom Thomson.
For a guided tour, A Taste of the World has two walking tours: First Chinatown: 125 Years Old and Second Chinatown: Foodies New Quarters. Both include visits to an herb shop, bakery and dim sum.
WHAT TO BUY Next to eating, shopping is the thing to do. Chinatown Centre (222 Spadina Ave., 416-599-8877) is a mall chock full of shops selling Chinese CDs and DVDs, books and novelty items. Po Chi Tong Chinese Natural Herbs (460 Dundas St. W., 416-599-6336) has an array of Eastern medicines and herbs. Ten Ren’s Tea & Ginseng Co. (454 Dundas St. W., 416-598-7872) is the ultimate tea shop with bagged and loose tea and pretty tea sets to serve your lychee tea. Courage My Love (14 Kensington Ave., 416-979-1992) is the place for eclectic accessories and jewellery. Burlesque (66 1/2 Nassau St., 416-203-8424) is jammed with vintage clothes, accessories and magazines for the ultimate girly girl.
WHERE TO EAT Try Kim Moon Bakery (438 Dundas St. W., 416-977-1933) for Chinese pastries like lotus paste sandwiches or black bean crisps; Happy Seven for hot and sour soup; Bright Pearl Seafood Restaurant for authentic dim sum; Nguyên Hu’ong (322 Spadina Ave., 416-599-4625) for $1 Vietnamese subs and sausages; King’s Café (192 Augusta Ave., 416-591-1346) is a vegan haven.
PHOTO OPS Henry Moore’s Large Two Forms sculpture outside of the AGO; in front of the street vendors who sell exotic fruits like the magenta-coloured dragonfruit and longans—”dragon’s eyes.”
UNUSUAL HERBAL REMEDIES
Pop into an herbal shop and you’ll see all the unexpected plants and animals that claim to cure whatever ails you. Among some of the surprising natural remedies are deer penis (dried or in pill form) as an aphrodisiac; deer tail for back pain; dried lizard to improve weak kidneys; dried seahorse for respiratory disorders like asthma or sexual dysfunction; hare’s ear for depression; dragon bones for anxiety; tiger balm plaster for aches and sprains; chrysanthemum flowers for red eye or blurred vision, and dandelions for liver and gallbladder cleansing.