“Eat like an Egyptian” may seem like an odd invocation to make in the middle of Greektown.
But for months last fall those words hung above the papered-over windows of a Danforth Avenue storefront next to a sign for “Papyrus.”
When Papyrus finally opened for business in early winter, it was revealed it had a Greek connection, despite specializing in Egyptian food.
The area was chosen for the new eatery because its philosophy seemed to match the attitudes of the local people, owner and manager Amr Elimam said in a January interview.
“In this part of Danforth there’s more concern about the issues that this food is relevant for, about being vegetarian, concerns about the environment, concerns about animal health, and so on,” he said.
It also helped to be near the Big Carrot and health health food stores.
Papyrus focuses not on just Egyptian food, but on vegan Egyptian food.
“Egyptians have a long history of eating very good vegan food,” Elimam said. This springs from thousands of years of farming, yielding “amazing ingredients and fresh produce.”
There are other Egyptian restaurants in Toronto but none specializing in vegetarian food, as far as he knows. “My opinion is that vegetarian food is far better than the other types of food we have from Egypt.”
Egyptian cuisine in general differs from other Middle Eastern fare in that Egyptians are very bold about using herbs and spices, Elimam said. Egyptians also tend to use beans as a base. “Lebanese and Syrian food use chick peas — we’re much more rooted in the fava beans,” he said.
The central vegan dish at Papyrus is Ful, made with fava beans seasoned with fresh lemons, limes, olive oil, and aromatic spices, plus fresh vegetables, tehina and umami. It comes wrapped in a sandwich or as part of a full platter.
And that Greek connection? It turns out papyrus is a plant used for making writing materials.
“Actually the origin of ‘papyrus’ is a Greek word for paper,” Elimam said. “So here we are in Greektown.”
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