Hungry? These dishes and drinks are some of Edmonton's best hidden gems

·3 min read

Food writer Phil Wilson is on a quest to round up the best culinary creations in Edmonton.

Every other week, he shares chefs' stories and samples with host Adrienne Pan on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

You can hear his column live every other Friday on CBC Radio One and the CBC Listen app.

These recommendations come from his first four columns on the show.

Tamarind sauce and curries from Siam Thai Kitchen

15883 116th Ave., Edmonton,

Submitted by Esther Kagaoan
Submitted by Esther Kagaoan

This small restaurant, which opened in the summer, is buried in an industrial area in the west end, but don't let that deter you.

Owner Esther Kagaoan told Wilson she sets aside two days each month to make sauces and curry pastes from scratch.

Instead of buying tamarind sauce by the jar or using concentrated tamarind pulp, Kagaoan buys fresh tamarind pods, which she peels, boils, mashes and then strains numerous times.

"It's so much better fresh," she said. "I'm not doing any shortcuts of any sort."

This kind of effort is unusual, Wilson said. He called a half-dozen of the city's most well-known Thai restaurants but could not find another that made its own curry pastes or tamarind sauce in-house.

Wilson recommends trying the pad Thai, tamarind chicken and the red and green curries from Siam Thai Kitchen.

Animal taco from La Patrona

2 Athabascan Ave., Sherwood Park,

Submitted by Phil Wilson
Submitted by Phil Wilson

This secret menu item features five types of meat — chicken, two kinds of pork and two kinds of beef.

"You might think it's going to taste like five dishes mixed together — like some sort of scrambled '80s mix tape gone awry — but really, it's like five instruments coming together to make a beautiful melody," Wilson said.

Submitted by Carlos O'Farril
Submitted by Carlos O'Farril

Chef Carlos O'Farril told Wilson the animal taco is a twist on tacos mixtos, a popular dish in Mexico that typically features two types of meat.

The different meats, sweet, salty and spicy, create waves of flavour in the mouth, he said.

A warning: don't order this unless you have a big appetite. The animal taco feeds two.

Mulligatawny soup from Drift Food Truck

9330 80th Ave.,, closed until 2021

Submitted by Phil Wilson
Submitted by Phil Wilson

In the past, Drift Food Truck owners Kara and Nevin Fenske have served soups at catering events but they decided to sell some by the litre this year.

Wilson recommends ordering the mulligatawny, an Anglo-Indian curry soup.

Fenske, whose family is from Pakistan, uses his grandfather's recipe, which is full of cumin, coriander, turmeric and paprika. He uses homemade stock, diced Gala apples and soaks the spices in a combination of malt vinegar and white vinegar.

Submitted by Nevin Fenske
Submitted by Nevin Fenske

"It's a well-balanced, layered dish," Fenske told Wilson.

Drift Food Truck's location at the Shamrock Curling Club is currently closed but keep an eye on the company's website for pickup and delivery opportunities in the new year.

Cream liqueurs from Hansen Distillery and Elk Island Spirits

Hansen Distillery: 17412 111th Ave., Edmonton

Elk Island Spirits: 120 Pembina Rd., Sherwood Park

Submitted by Phil Wilson
Submitted by Phil Wilson

These beverages might not be best paired with the dishes above, but they are just the thing for spicing up coffee during the holiday season.

Hansen Distillery offers Morning Glory Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Liqueur, Purple Cow Saskatoon Berry Cream Liqueur and Salted Caramel Cream Liqueur.

Salted Caramel is selling faster than the distillery can produce it, said bar manager Rylan Martin.

If you can't get your hands on one of those bottles, give the Elk Island Spirits offering known as MooseMilk a try.

"It's a well-known concoction among the armed forces, where each branch will have its own tried-and-true recipe," Wilson said.

Elk Island Spirits owner John Stubbington told Wilson he spent three years testing the recipe before launching it at the distillery late last year.

His version is made with distillery's Ross Creek Rye, vanilla ice cream and maple syrup.

Which special dish should Phil Wilson spotlight next? Email him a suggestion here.