Get Canucked: Canadian Cuisine from LA to London

Canada, Food Lovers — By Amy Widdowson on January 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm

As NileGuide’s in-office Canuck, I’m often asked what makes something Canadian, food-wise. While some may assume that Canadian munchies are inherently cold and polite, or that “Canadian Cuisine” is an oxymoron, 2010 may prove to be the year of the Great White Nosh.

What is Canadian Cuisine? Think about a melting pot of British, American, German, Ukrainian, etc. cuisines with a healthy dose of the locavore movement and a love for all things hot and filling. Best eaten on days when the weather outside is frightful, Canadian Cuisine is, like Canadians themselves, hearty, comforting, and underestimated. Here are some examples of Canadian dishes, and where you can find them around the world.

Fries + Cheese curds + Gravy = Canadian Heaven

Have you ever looked at a plateful of French fries and thought “Man, wouldn’t the delicious factor of that dish increase ten-fold if only I could sprinkle it with cheese curds and drown it in gravy?”. If you have, this rib-sticking, cholesterol-raising Quebec classic is for you. Explaining the appeal of poutine to an uninitiated non-Canadian will elicit one of two reactions (“That sounds AWESOME” vs. “That’s the absolute craziest thing I have ever heard, why would anyone put that in their body, etc). Poutine has even gone high rent – Enjoy a fancy poutine at The Canoe Club in the Inn LW12 in New York City, made with with Braised Beef, Stilton and Red Wine reduction .

Neon orange means a-ok!

Kraft Dinner
In the States, you may call it “Macaroni and Cheese”, but in Canada it goes by one name and one name alone – Kraft Dinner (or KD, if you’re sassy). A staple of many Canadian childhood, this atomic orange masterpiece of “Real Canadian Cheddar Cheese” and pasta is cheap (under $2 a box most places), cheerful (biologically, it is impossible to frown while eating KD), and everywhere (most Canadian pantries have at least one box and if they don’t, they either ‘care about their health’ or have no souls). This is not fancy food, feeding many the Canadian undergrad during lean times. Sadly, actual Kraft Dinner is hard to find outside Canada, but hungry bar goers can nibble on a KD approximation between Jaegar shots at Butter in San Francisco.

Meat, Spices, and Pastry - oh my!

Tourtiere Pie
Devoured hungrily at many the Revillion (Christmas Eve) celebration in Quebec and beyond, Tourtiere Pie is a French meat pie kicked in the pants, with lots of spice and a flaky crust. Traditionally, the pies contain ground pork and/or veal, slow cooked with spices like thyme, sage, cloves and black pepper. Once again, New Yorkers have it best when it comes to this tasty treat – legendary Montreal Tourtiere purveyor Au Pied de Cochon imported numerous frozen pies for sale in Manhattan this holiday season.

Please note: there is no such thing as a low-calorie Nanaimo Bar

Nanaimo Bars
Craving a way to get as much butter, sugar, chocolate, coconut, and vanilla custard into your piehole, but lacking an oven and a socially acceptable way to do it? You’re in luck – there’s a Canadian dessert for that. The legend states that a housewife from Vancouver Island developed a layered, no-bake square 35 years ago, and named it after her hometown, Nanaimo. Notoriously rich, Nanaimo bars provoke a strange stare from non-Canadians – just what is this sweet and chewy, chocolate covered menace? Nanaimo Bars are best eaten with a glass of milk to cut the sucrose, rumor has it you can purchase these gooey Canadian treats at Clementine in Los Angeles. Wanna learn how to make them? Flickr user joyosity has wonderful step-by-step photo instructions.

Traditional burger, non-traditional meat

Elk Burgers
After scrambling up Mt. Rundle in the Canadian Rockies, I satiated my hunger / screaming body with an Elk Burger and a Grasshopper beer at the Elk and Oarsman. In Canada, traditional ‘American’ foods are often made from non-traditional meats, due to the fact that much of Canada is dominated by cold Canadian Shield topography. Kitchens Canada-wide get culinary creative with bison, elk, caribou, venison, and other cold-weather creatures/friends of Bambi. Nostalgic for a Canadian-style burger whilst in London? Try the Buffalo burger at one of the many Gourmet Burger Kitchen locations around the UK.

Any other Canadian delectables I’ve missed here? Leave ’em in the comments.

[Photos: Poutine/Joe Shlabotnik, Kraft Dinner/srboisvert, Tourtiere/beelerspace, Nanaimo Bar/joyosity, Elk Burger/dane brian]

Tags: Au Pied de Cochon, Banff, Butter, Canada, Canadian food, Canadian Shield, Canuck, elk, Elk and Oarsman, Elk Burgers, foodies, Kraft Dinner, Los Angeles, Montreal, nanaimo bars, New York City, Poutine, Quebec, San Francisco, tourtiere pie


  • Alexi Ueltzen says:

    Really? Nothing about maple syrup?

  • Eva says:

    Nice list! I’d add tarte au sucre (sugar pie) and feves au lard (a particularly intense variety of baked beans) from Quebec, seal flipper pie and Newfoundland-style fish cakes from, uh, Newfoundland. Ottawa’s famous BeaverTails, too!

  • Amy Widdowson says:

    @Alexi: I was going to mention the Maple Martini at LW12, but I thought it may be a bit much after the holidays 😉

  • Vaun says:

    Nanaimo bars… Canuck crack. You can’t eat just one.

  • Samya says:

    I was just in Montreal where I tried poutine for the first time. Awesome. With beer. Had to go back for seconds. Smoked meat seems to be a big thing there too. With half sour pickles.

  • Paul Milovanov says:

    Anything from the breakfast heaven of Mme Cora Tsouflidou should be a shining example of Canadian cuisine. Cora… we miss you.

    Then, I second beavertails. I like mine medium-rare.

  • Meaghan Clark says:

    At first I didn’t believe that “poutine” was a real, Canadian treat but Michael Buble just said that was one of his favorite things about Canada that he can’t find in the States – someone needs to market that!

  • Amy says:

    Meaghan – believe it! Poutine is definitely real, and definitely awesome/strange

  • Legal Nomads says:

    My favourite poutine place in New York City is Pomme Frites, a tiny hole-in-the wall of a place on 2nd Avenue between St. Mark’s and 7th streets. They import the real cheese curds from my hometown of Montreal, the staff is friendly and it’s open extremely late. I’ve dragged many a friend here kicking and screaming about how disgusting poutine sounds, only to watch them devour a bowl of it with a big smile on their face. Thanks for the roundup & happy Canada day!


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