By Nikki Hillman
In Coquitlam’s city centre, Glen Drive is evolving into a great place to stop for lunch or dinner. There are several Pho, sushi, and waffle stores – and there is a wealth of hidden Persian and Iranian gems.
I found myself drawn to The High Street and stopped in at the Urban Gate Bar and Grill for some dinner, and was surprised to find a traditional Iranian/Persian Market attached to the restaurant. The scents of the sweets were enticing as I sat down to order. I asked my server to recommend a traditional Iranian meal and she instantly pointed out her favorite on the menu; Jujeh. This is a classic kebab of chicken, marinated in lemon, yogurt and saffron. The meal also comes with a small salad, barbecue Roma tomato, lemon, onion and saffron rice. The combination of the flavors was delicious but I was won over by the in-house dressing on the small side salad. It’s garlicky, creamy and so popular that you can purchase a container to take home. The market is a treat to wander through with a butcher, bakery and fresh produce, along with assorted imported Persian spices and breads.
After dinner I headed back to Glen Drive and stopped in at Ayoub’s Dried Fruit and Nuts. I was met by Amir Hosseini, who led me on a tour of the store. Locals may be familiar with this family run business; Amir’s father Ayoub started with his first store in 2009 in North Vancouver. With over 30 years of roasting experience, Ayoub is considered a “master roaster.” Now, the family has several locations throughout the Lower Mainland, all run by trained roasters and their families.
The Coquitlam location opened in 2013 and is managed by master roaster, Ray Rostami, and his family. It’s a simple but impressive space. Large, silver urns are filled with nuts, dried berries, figs, dates, veggie and beet chips. It’s clean and open but feels as if you’re in a posh, open air market. While Amir and I chatted, he offered me several samples of dried fruits and nuts. The cashews, almonds and pistachios are imported from California raw and then roasted in-house. There are several different spice mixtures used in the roasting, sourced from the best areas native to the spice, so the quality is very high-end. Every morning the master roaster tosses the nuts with a spice mixture, roasts them and then tosses them again with a little bit of lemon/lime juice and the spice. The result is the freshest product, available everyday.
I sampled several different kinds of nuts and spice combinations but my surprise favorite was the traditional lime and saffron mix on cashews. Delicious! If fruit is your thing, try the dried blueberries, cranberries and cherries sourced and dried at local farms in the lower mainland. All of their fruits and nuts are sold by weight and you are encouraged to bring in your own containers. Ayoub’s also carries BC honey from Armstrong, organic peanut butter and they offer gift boxes of nuts and Turkish delight. The Turkish delight is the best available, flown in from Turkey within 24 hours of ordering. Like Amir says, the best Turkish delight comes from Turkey, don’t mess with perfection!
Leaving Ayoub’s with a bag of lime and saffron cashews (still warm!) I decided I’d like to take home a sampling of sweets. A friend recommended I try Minoo Bakery and Pastry for traditional Iranian cookies.
Heading west along Glen Drive, I found one of the original strip malls of Coquitlam’s city centre, at 2918 Glen Drive. Here there is another, small Persian grocery where you can also purchase imported items such as rose water, but beside the grocery is the Minoo Bakery and Pastry. Two long display cases are stuffed full of treats and the bakery is deliciously scented with sweet coconut, walnuts and pistachios. I chose a small sampling of traditional Iranian deserts; shirini e papioni (bow tie pastry), chickpea cookies, naan berenji (rose water flavored), potica (nut roll), shirini e zaban puff pastry and coconut macaroons. What a wonderful way to end my evening, exploring the older parts of Coquitlam’s city centre and the shiny new High Street, in search of a different cultural, culinary experience.
Urban Gate Bar and Grill
102 – 1158 The High St, Coquitlam
Ayoub’s Dried Fruits and Nuts
150 – 2950 Glen Dr., Coquitlam
Minoo Bakery and Pastry
117 – 2918 Glen, Coquitlam.