Neighbourhood: The Forks
Address: 1 Portage Avenue
In the late 18th century, Chinese communities immigrated to Calcutta, the bustling capital of British India and epicentre of commerce and trade. With goods from across the continent flowing in and out of the city, these groups were exposed to new ingredients, which they fused with traditional Chinese methods of cookery. The result was hakka cuisine, now available at Clay Oven’s Shaw Park location.
Fried rice becomes an aromatic mélange, with lamb and okra seasoned with turmeric, fenugreek and coriander. Breaded meats, so prevalent in Chinese cooking, make an appearance, with added refinery, such as bite-sized white fish fillets battered and seasoned with Indian flavours.
Cultural exchange has always played a key role in shaping a country’s cuisine. Indian flavours, as we know them in the west, result from the cultural interweaving of over 30 states and territories. Clay Oven’s vast menu, then, is a mixture of multiple culinary traditions.
Cumin, turmeric and fenugreek accent varieties of crunchy pakora, some with paneer cheese, others with vegetables. Navratan korma mixes distinct textures, crunchy cashews, chewy dried fruit and silky paneer, resulting in a fresh take on a familiar favourite.
Throughout the spacious interior, overlooking the Red River and Waterfront Drive, a mixture of Indian pop and traditional carnatic music play quietly under the hushed chatter of business-folk, families and couples. The menu caters to them all, with dishes in three levels of spice, and halal, vegan and gluten-free alternatives. There are over 70 options, and servers speak knowledgeably when asked for details. They remain attentive while juggling between tables; no small feat in a large dining room.
It is a testament to Winnipeg’s culinary curiosity that this restaurant flourishes when only two per cent of the city’s residents are of East Indian descent. There are few cities in which a baseball game and contemporary ethnic dining can be experienced simultaneously.
Clay Oven at Shaw Park is open is open Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 10:00 pm, and on Saturdays from 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
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