There’s probably a lot about Manipura Doubles you won’t be familiar with, such as:
· What is a double, exactly?
· What is “bara,” one of the main ingredients?
· Why is it served on a trike?
· Who’s making them?
· Where can I find them?
We’ve got all the answers. Take a look:
Making the grade
Starting off as a dishwasher at age 13 at a small Italian restaurant in his hometown of Tottenham, Lucas Boers, 23, seemed destined to end up in the food industry.
After completing school for professional golf management (“It gave me the business side that I could bring to the food industry.”), he graduated from the George Brown Culinary Chef training program with honours in 2013. He landed his first job out of college as garde manger at Skin & Bones. Then, after two-and-a-half years working on the Burgatory Food Truck and in the restaurant, plus at Mabel’s Bakery where he gained pastry experience, he decided to venture out on his own.
Boers spent one month in Trinidad earlier this year to help a friend he met here open up his restaurant: a late-night tapas-style spot in the nation’s capital, Port of Spain.
After trying doubles for the first time last year and his recent trip, he decided to launch a business focused on the famous Trinidadian street food: Manipura Doubles.
Boers wants his traditional, quick, portable, affordable homemade food that can be a snack or a meal “to be a step up from cheap street food.”
His version is “my Canadian experience with West Indian and Caribbean influences.” His girlfriend’s Guyanese heritage is where the “major West Indian influence” comes in.
So what is a double exactly? A flatbread called bara – a basic yeast dough made with all-purpose flour – is deep-fried until puffy and golden, then topped with curried chickpeas.
Boers’ addition of homemade tomatillo chutney, fresh cucumbers and signature hot pepper sauce is due to his time in the Caribbean. “It’s as close to Trinidadian as possible, as close to what I tasted while I was there,” he says. He spent one-and-a-half months testing recipes.
And for him, the fact that he’s Caucasian doesn’t matter. “People tell me they’re the best thing since home,” he says.
On the menu
Currently, there are three varieties of Doubles (two in plastic container for $5) available via his trike: Traditional, Curry Shrimp and Fried Paneer. The menu recently became 100 per cent vegetarian, so the “shrimp” is now vegan.
As for beef or pork? Raised pescatarian, he says, “I will never serve meat. It’s a vegetarian menu, but if I can use the opportunity to not use eggs or dairy, I do.” For his catering menu, the Raw Broccoli Slaw’s creamy sweet dressing uses sunflower seeds as a replacement for mayo.
To quench your thirst, there’s Grace Coconut Water ($2).
Boers picks up ingredients from Kensington Market and arrives at The Depanneur, where he rents space, for 8 am to begin prep. Luckily he lives close by.
He makes 72 doubles over three hours, four-to five mornings a week. “I can do 72 efficiently: get out on time and set up for the lunch crowd,” he says.
He serves his made-from-scratch fare from a large custom-made trike in various spots around the city during lunch (usually 12 to 2 pm), and often sells out in the first half hour to hour.
“It’s great. It’s eco-friendly. I don’t use public transit; I bike everywhere,” he says.
The trike stays true to how doubles are sold in Trinidad he says (they use carts), and operates similar to a food truck, with less hassle and no overhead.
Made and shipped from Portland, Oregon, the trike was subject to health inspection, just as restaurants and food trucks are.
Boers requested the interior be designed one side hot, one side cold – with the option of cold converting to hot. When full, it can weigh up to 200 pounds.
Boers designed part of his bara recipe “to hold up longer, so it’s still good for customer to consume two to four hours later.”
The trike is set up similar to a food truck: in a parking spot, with Boers feeding the meter.
Locations have included Trinity-Bellwoods, David Pecaut Square, and Church and Bloor. To find out where he’ll be next and when, check his Instagram page.
The next stop
Launched on Canada Day, and expected to last just three months, Manipura Doubles has become a full-time venture.
Boers wants to open a brick-and-mortar business – specifically a takeout spot offering a very focused menu (similar to his current catering lineup): doubles, one side and one dessert.
Add to that a fleet of food trikes: two to three trikes under one operation, and possibly more working out of a second location in the east end, translating to roughly eight trikes out serving customers around the city, east and west.
Boers wants “to take Toronto by storm.” Expansion is planned for winter 2017/spring 2018, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, Boers’ doubles – what he calls “the most honest lunch in the city” – will be available lunchtime via trike at a downtown curb near you.