Since we get a lot of international visitors we are often asked “what Canadian foods can we experience in Toronto?” So this blog post is dedicated to the good ole quirky Canadian food experiences to tick off your bucket list on your next visit. Note: most Canadians try to eat healthy, locally sourced foods but we do also love these classic comfort foods in moderation.
Maple Syrup: On the top of the list of “must try foods” is maple syrup. Some of our favorite breakfast specialties always taste better with a bit (or a lot) of maple syrup. Canada produces over 6 million gallons of maple syrup every year which is 85% of the world market for this golden liquid, with most of it coming from Quebec. Not all syrups are created equal. My favorite is Grade A medium amber, which you can sample at the St. Lawrence Market before purchasing. While at the market be sure to pick up some Maple Butter, also known as maple cream or maple spread, which is made by boiling, cooling and then stirring maple syrup until it reaches a consistency of peanut butter. It’s wonderful on toast and makes a great gift to take home to friends and family.
Poutine: Another favourite from Quebec, which started back in the 1950’s and recently adopted by the rest of us Canadians is “Poutine” pronounced “poo-teen”. Although I have to admit that the best poutine can still be found in Quebec. Simply stated it is French Fries with fresh cheese curds slathered with brown gravy. Poutineries have popped up all over the country offering gourmet poutine with all kinds of toppings including smoke meat and lobster, but I recommend trying the original variety and make sure they make it with fresh “squeaky” cheese curds. WARNING: they may not be the healthiest on the nutrition scale but they are definitely worth trying at least once.
Canadian Peameal Bacon: Bacon is next on the list because it just goes hand-in-hand with maple syrup, in fact Canadians love their maple-flavoured bacon. I sometimes see Canadian Bacon in the US for sale in grocery stories but it is not the same as Canadian Peameal Bacon which is a boneless pork loin cured and rolled in cornmeal. My favorite recipe is Canadian Peameal Bacon roasted with Dijon mustard, rosemary and yes maple syrup pictured above.
Tourtière: Prounounced tor-tee-yair is another favourite coming from Quebec.This meat pie is traditionally made with pork finely ground and slowly cooked with cinnamon and cloves before being poured into a double pie crust. Some people also make it with beef, pork or veal but the true French Canadian way is to make it only with pork and served at Christmas time.
Butter Tarts: These mini pies have a crumbly crust and are filled with a sweet concoction made of butter, sugar, maple syrup and eggs. You now sometimes find them filled with raisins and pecans but the traditional recipe is just plain gooey goodness. If you are French Canadian like me, you would have grown up with Tarte au Surcre (Sugar Pie) instead of butter tarts.
Smarties: These candy-coated chocolates are unique to Canada and come in a variety of colours but ask any Canadian and they will tell you that you must eat the red ones last and can most likely sing the jiggle we learned as kids on TV.
Nanaimo Bars: Originally created on our west coast in Nanaimo, British Columbia the namesake of these wonderful dessert bars is now no found across Canada.
Beavertails: No we don’t mean eating real tails from our Canadian mascot the beaver. Beavertails are deep fried like donuts but in the shape of a beaver’s tail topped with your choice of sweet delicious toppings such as bananas, whipped cream, brown sugar, Oreo pieces, chocolate hazelnut and more. “BeaverTails” or in French “Queues de Castor” is a registered trademark of BeaverTails Canada Inc.
Canadian Chocolate Bars: There are a number of Canadian chocolate bars but notable ones are Coffee Crisp which is why so many Canadian expats sometimes fill their suitcases with them when the leave the country. Caramilk is another national treasure that you won’t find south of the border and the manufacturer Nestle lays claim to the “caramilk secret” about how to get delicious caramel into the chocolate pockets.
Caesar: A favourite for weekend brunch or summertime cocktail, the Caesar is notably a Bloody Mary made with Clamato juice instead of tomato juice. Clamato juice is a spicy tomato clam juice. Although usually only found in Canada, you can generally find Clamato Juice wherever Canadians are found, which explains why they carry Clamato Juice in Florida during the winter. P.S. don’t forget to rim the glass with celery salt and add a piece of celery.
Cod Tongue and Screech: If you looking for these two favourites then you will have to head to Newfoundland to experience them and while your there you can get “Screeched in”. A trip to Newfoundland is one of the things on my bucket list.
We also have other regional favourites such as New Brunswick potatoes, BC salmon, Alberta beef, Montreal bagels, Saskatoon berries, Oka cheese (Quebec), PEI mussels and Montreal smoked meat to name a few.