A warm bite of roti in Toronto’s Parkdale amidst mounds of snow is one step towards finding a taste of home, but neither taste nor home are easily defined or traced. In this mouth-watering documentary, the origins of dal puri, or roti as it is known locally, leads Toronto-based filmmaker Richard Fung across oceans from his native Trinidad to the Indian Subcontinent to explore the interwoven histories of peoples and palates.
In his quest for the original dal puri, Fung interviews restaurateurs, foodies, scholars and locally renowned chefs in South Asia and the Caribbean. We catch tantalizing glimpses of flour-caked hands expertly rolling, kneading and stuffing the flatbread in its multiple succulent variations. From the dal puri of Bihar to the Trinidadian specialty named after its resemblance to a “busted-up shirt,” every name for roti reveals a different history.
For centuries, dal puri has been shared, altered and blended, mirroring the mélange of regional customs and dialects that thrive throughout South Asia and have been transplanted across the Atlantic. “The rivers flow and we have not been able to stem the flow of the rivers. There is no divide in terms of palate.” says Pushpesh Pant, an Indian food historian. Uncovering histories of colonialism, trade and immigration, Dal Puri Diaspora is a fascinating survey of regional specialties and cultural specificities. From sidewalk eateries and spice factories to home kitchens, Fung explores the mutability of borders when identity is considered through cuisine and the deliciously complex world of roti.