Surrey, BC - Restaurant

Restaurant Statistics Surrey Canada

Manjit PablaAt Himalaya Restaurant in Vancouver’s Punjabi Market, the smell of hot curry and spices rises from the long buffet table.

Rivalling it in length is the impressive sweet case, covered with colourful treats such as gulab jamun (deep fried orbs of dried milk dipped in honey), jalebi (chewy, pretzel-shaped, bright orange from saffron) and berfe (snowy bars of dense milk topped with nuts).

If you’re planning an Indian wedding today, there are a number of places across Greater Vancouver you could find the traditional sweets for your guests. After all, the strip of Main Street called Punjabi Market or Little India isn’t the only Little India around. A neighbourhood in Surrey has also earned that name among locals.

But the treats were hard to come by 40 years ago, and for restaurateur Kewal Pabla, his sweets had a special role to play for his business, his family and the local South Asian community.

Pabla opened Himalaya on the corner of Main and 50th in the early 1970s. There was little hint anything like Punjabi Market would exist in the area.

“There were hardly any Indo-Canadian shops here, ” said Pabla. At the time, the Sunset neighbourhood had a large German population, which grew after the Second World War. Wes Jang, a nearby resident of 48 years recalls German linen stores, a Chinese grocer and two paper shacks where youth would collect news for delivery.

However, there has been a South Asian presence in Vancouver since the turn of the century. It experienced a spike in the 1960s as Canadian immigration became based on merit rather than criteria such as race or national origin.

The busiest hubs of community for South Asian immigrants were the various temples in the city, and that was where some locals discovered that Pabla knew how to make sweets. At that time, there was no one around who knew how to prepare the traditional treats for weddings. Many were willing to pay Pabla for catering, who had experience at his parents’ restaurant in Punjab cooking and making sweets.

And so, on the other side of the world, more than 10, 000 kilometres from the hands that taught him, Kewal Pabla was feeding Vancouver from his restaurant on Main Street, and business was good.

Pabla’s brother, wife, children and parents joined him in Vancouver before the end of the decade.

Other South Asian businesses such as fabric shops and jewellers clustered in the area. Public celebrations for holidays such as Vaisakhi and Diwali began in the 1980s.

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