When most people think of world cuisine, the chances are that their thoughts will naturally turn to Italian pasta, Japanese ramen, a Thai or Indian curry, or a Moroccan tagine. But there are plenty of tasty dishes that might not immediately spring to mind - and some of them are just across the northern border of the United States.
Canadian cuisine has a variety of influences, including indigenous, English, Scottish and French cuisine, with different parts of the country being influenced more by some than others. English Canada is more heavily influenced by British cuisine, while French Canadian cuisine evolved from 16th century French cooking adapted to a tough pioneer lifestyle.
A large country, with plentiful lakes and rivers, Canada has plenty of meat and fish, which features in many of its signature dishes. So too does maple syrup, the country’s national symbol. The Canadians also make some great Christmas recipes - take a look at these seven classic Canadian Christmas recipes to find out more.
No list would be complete without this iconic Québécois dish. The ultimate Canadian fast food, poutine is made from medium cut French fries, fresh cheese curds, and hot gravy sauce that melts the curds, so the fries are coated in a deliciously cheesy, meaty, gooey mess.
First created in the Centre-du-Québec area sometime in the late '50s, poutine's origins are hotly disputed, with several restaurants claiming to have invented it. But there's no real way of knowing who made the very first poutine for sure. What we do know is that, after some initial skepticism where it was dismissed as ‘junk food’, the rest of Canada has now fallen for poutine in a big way. It is available in most restaurants in big cities, as well as from street stalls, and even from certain famous fast food outlets.
But with so many vendors wanting a piece of that sweet poutine (Canadian) dollar, you need to beware of inferior imitations. A true Québécois-style poutine should have crispy fries that hold their structure when wet, fresh, ‘squeaky’ curds, and a thin gravy.
Bannock is a quick bread, or flatbread, that originates with the Inuit and First Nations of Canada, as well as Native Americans in the United States. It is sold in bakeries throughout the country, many of them First Nation-owned, and is available as a dense, chewy baked bread, or a fried version that is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the outside. You can even try ‘fusion’ bannock dishes such as bannock tacos, bannock burgers, and bannock pizza.
Indulgent, simple, and super addictive, Canadian butter tarts are made from a flaky pastry shell with a butter, sugar and egg filling, baked in the oven until the top is crispy. Imagine a pecan pie without the nuts and you’re somewhere close. Occasionally, new flavours can be added for a gourmet twist, such as maple, bacon, pumpkin, chilli, and salted caramel cardamom.
Nova Scotian Lobster Rolls
Canada’s east coast is famous for its seafood, and Nova Scotia is the country’s undisputed lobster capital. The locals even build a Christmas tree from lobster traps during the holiday season. The lobster roll will already be familiar to New Englanders as a hot dog bun filled with tasty lobster meat. In Canada, the dish is much the same, but any type of bread roll can be used, including burger buns, baguettes and even pita pockets.
New Yorkers may be difficult to convince on this one, but let’s just agree that both styles of bagel are pretty great. The Montreal bagel is sweeter, denser and thinner than its American cousin. It is boiled in honey, hence the sweetness, and cooked in a wood-fired oven for a crispier crust.
Saskatoon berry pie
The Saskatoon berry is native to Canada, and can also be found in many states here in the US. The city of Saskatoon, in Saskatchewan is actually named after these berries, from the Cree word misâskwatômina. They have a sweet flavour, with a hint of almond, and make the perfect pie filling. The Saskatoon berry pie comes from the Prairies region of Canada and is often served with vanilla ice cream as a dessert.
Montreal-style Smoked Meat
Montreal smoked meat, or boeuf fumé, is a deli-style cured and smoked meat, usually served on a rye bread sandwich with yellow mustard and pickles, and sometimes used as a topping for poutine. It is made from beef brisket, which is salted and cured with savoury seasonings such as cracked peppercorns, coriander, garlic, and mustard seeds.
Originally from Toronto, the creation of peameal bacon is credited to local pork packer William Davies, who came to Canada from England in 1854. It is made from wet-cured, unsmoked back bacon, rolled in corn flour and cooked to produce a distinctive crispy yellow crust. It can be found in restaurants and fast food outlets through Southern Ontario, and the peameal bacon sandwich - peameal bacon served on a kaiser roll - is often considered to be a signature dish of Toronto.
The Nanaimo bar is a no-bake layered chocolate dessert that takes its name from the British Columbian city of Nanaimo. It is made of three distinct layers, the first made from a crumble cookie or waffle base, the second from custard, and the third from a thin layer of chocolate. This iconic dessert has sparked many different variations, and its home city of Nanaimo has even created the Nanaimo Bar Trail to show hungry tourists where they can try a few.
Literally translated as ‘the pudding of the unemployed’, pouding chômeurwas created by female factory workers during the Great Depression, and uses basic, cheap ingredients to make a sweet, comforting dessert that is still well-loved today. It is made from cake batter with syrup poured over it before baking. The cake rises through the syrup, which settles at the bottom of the pan, mixing with the batter and creating a distinct layer of syrupy cake at the bottom.
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