Holidays in Canada offer a smorgasbord of culinary delights that starts with day-fresh seafood like salmon, lobster, scallops and crab; moves to succulent steak and flavoursome game like venison, elk and bison, and takes in influences from French and German to Asian and Ukrainian. Then there's the drink; from the national whiskeys and beers to sweet ice wine, a Canadian speciality made from grapes frozen on the vine.
A classic French-Canadian meat pie traditionally served at Christmas, tourtiere is usually made with diced pork, beef or veal, often with wild game for extra flavour. Slow cooked in a deep dish, with mushrooms, onions and garlic to soak up the juices and cinnamon and cloves adding a warm spiciness; tourtiere is often served with a tangy chilli relish.
The BC Roll
British Columbia is famous for its wild Pacific salmon, and this sushi roll is a delicious use of the local produce. Wrapped in nori (seaweed), it contains barbecued salmon, cucumber, and often barbecued salmon skin in a sweet sauce. There are many variations, like the addition of mayonnaise, to try throughout the province.
Where would the humble pancake be without Canada’s most famous sweetener? Also smothered on French toast, waffles, porridge, and used to add a warming, sugary burst of flavour to all kinds of cooking; this delicious syrup is made from the sap of the maple tree. Three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup is produced in Quebec, which exports over 145 million Canadian Dollars’ worth every year.
Canada does some seriously tempting sweet treats, and the Nanaimo bar is a national favourite. Named after a city in British Columbia, this no-bake dessert is a crumb biscuit bar, usually layered with vanilla or custard buttercream and topped with chocolate. There are loads of varieties to try, including mint, mocha and, our favourite, peanut butter flavour buttercream.
Many of Canada’s major cities have a thriving food cart scene, with the flavours changing from region to region. Go to Quebec and find poutine everywhere you go, while Ontario loves its hot dogs, and British Columbia craves smoky Ukrainian sausages. Vancouverites devour sushi and pizza, Ottawans snack on falafel and ‘beaver tail’ pastries, and both cities’ foodie markets will have you filling your baskets and your stomachs. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh, and cooked right in front of you.
Quebec slang for ‘a mess’, poutine may not be Canada’s most elegant dish, but it’s frequently voted it’s favourite. Best enjoyed after a night out, this is a mound of French fries topped with thick brown gravy and cheese curds that make a squeaking sound as you eat them. For extra wow factor, other ingredients like beef, pulled pork, lamb, lobster or truffles can also be added.
Montreal Smoked Meat
If you are still searching for your perfect sandwich filling, this may just be your holy grail. This smoked, cured, kosher beef is seasoned with cracked peppercorns and aromatic spices like coriander, then left to absorb the flavours over a week. Pile it high on rye bread slathered with mustard and find yourself in sandwich heaven.
An Ottawan trademark, these fried whole-wheat dough pastries are hand-stretched to resemble a beaver’s tail. Try one with a drizzle of lemon juice, a sprinkling of cinnamon and a dusting of sugar, especially from ByWard Market in Ottawa after a stroll along the Rideau Canal.