Silk Roots Fusion Cuisine: Dining Around the World in Peterborough & the Kawarthas
304 George St. North, Peterborough
It’s a long road, from the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan to the bustle of George Street, but both Mehdi Taheri and Mina Monsef travelled it, albeit by different routes. The married owners of Silk Roots Fusion Cuisine, both belong to families that were forced to flee the country. Monsef’s path led first to Iran, then Canada, while Mehdi came here, by way of the Netherlands. And now? They integrate all of those cuisines into what they serve, putting a personal twist on traditional Persian and Afghan dishes, just a few steps from the town clock in downtown Peterborough.
“As refugees, we share similar stories,” says Monsef. “Food was always something that brought people together.” At Silk Roots, that’s often literal, with an emphasis on large portions and sharing plates. And while some misunderstand Middle Eastern cuisine, Monsef says their dishes bring out the bass notes, not heavy heat. “It’s flavourful, but never spicy,” she says, noting that they put the emphasis on rich seasonings like cinnamon, turmeric, salt, pepper, and saffron, which make every ingredient pop.
Medhi was separated from his family as a teen, and learned to cook to survive. And when he came to Canada, Monsef notes, his English wasn’t strong, so he parlayed those skills into an independent business—this is now the third restaurant they’ve owned, and run. “He had to start something of his own,” she says. Monsef adds that they were attracted to Peterborough because it’s a good place for new arrivals. Her uncle moved here first, and they followed, using the services at the local New Canadians Centre and taking language classes. “There’s opportunities here for immigrants to excel,” she explains.
Their menu brings it all together, from savoury slow-cooked lamb to veg-friendly falafel (deep-fried patties made from chickpeas) to koobideh, a beef skewer traditionally smashed into form on a stone, with a mallet. The Zereshk Polo is a Persian staple, the saffron the star of the show. And the Kapsalon Doner mixes Holland and Canada with international flare—a street food, created less than 20 years ago in the port city of Rotterdam, the name is Dutch for “hairdressing salon,” because one of the creators cut hair for a living. (It’s since become a favourite, around the world.)
The Silk Roots version makes it into a poutine, mozzarella melted over fries and chicken doner (lean, and cooked on the flat top), with a signature salad. They even have pizza (with Middle Eastern ingredients as topping options), and an Afghan burger. “It’s a Western take,” Monsef laughs. “We didn’t grow up eating a lot of burgers.” But just like everything else here, they do it up right, their own personal touch, experience gained from a long road, well-travelled.