If anyone asked me to name food associated with Canada before I visited the country a couple of years ago, I don't think I could have come up with anything more than maple syrup. To be fair, Canadian food does seem to have an unhealthy preoccupation with the cloyingly sweet but surprisingly addictive stuff, but a bit of pre-trip research and actual wandering on Canadian soil did turn up a few other treats.
I managed to eat some of them, but it was a short trip so I didn't get to sink my teeth into everything I wanted to. Still, in the interest of raising common knowledge on Canadian food - and in the hope that any friends travelling to that part of the world will return with some goodies :) - here's my list of top Canadian foods to try:
Ok, so it is maple syrup-related but you can’t really escape that in Canada. It’s
still one of my favorite Canadian finds. This creamy spread is made by cooking down maple syrup to a consistency very much like butter frosting. Maple butter is perfect on hot pancakes, with maple bacon and – you guessed it – more maple syrup. Just think of it as the base for an experiment in flavor layering.
All you connoisseurs may tut in disapproval but I love a sweet wine and they don't come any sweeter than Canada's famed ice wine. Pressed from grapes that are picked and crushed while frozen, ice wine is highly concentrated and almost syrupy, yet surprisingly crisp and refreshing on account of its high level of acidity. Most of the world's ice wine comes from Ontario, Canada with many pretty vineyards in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area. Despite it being a jam-packed trip I was lucky to get a chance to drive through the Canadian wine country and stop off at one of the vineyards on a jaunt to Niagara Falls. It's since been one of my top wine discoveries.
Canadian poutine is regularly featured on American lists of the world's weirdest foods. I really don't know why as it's just French fries topped with cheese curds and meat gravy. (Sorry America, but I'm sure there are weirder foods down in any North American China Town). But seeing it on some of these lists did get me to try it I guess. This Quebecois creation roughly translates to 'mess' or 'hodgepodge' and very much looks it. It's tasty enough but felt a bit like glorified chips with brown sauce to me. Maybe I need to try some of the gourmet versions smothered in caviar, goat cheese, camembert or foie gras the next time. Still, worth a try as it’s a classic Canadian dish.
NOT (YET) EATEN
Any regular readers of my blog will begin to see a pattern when it comes to the sort of food I hunger after on my travels. Sweet tarts feature quite high on the list and I was very keen to sample a Canadian butter tart - made primarily from butter, eggs, sugar and syrup baked into a flaky crust. Sadly, a busy business
trip doesn't offer too many opportunities to hunt for pastries so had to give this
a miss, but that's definitely on my Canadian wish list the next time I head to
that part of the world.
No, not real beaver tails (although apparently you could eat those too), BeaverTails refer to sweet dough hand-pulled into the shape of a beaver tail, fried and served with butter and various sweet toppings like chocolate, cream, powdered sugar, bananas and of course maple syrup. Sounds perfect for a cold Canadian day and also high on my list of must-eats if there ever is another trip north.
Oreilles de Crisse
This is a dish that would probably not go down too well on Middle Eastern menus. (Oreilles de Crisse are deep-fried smoked pork jowls and the name translates into Christ's Ears with 'Crisse' being a particularly Quebecois way to swear). But let's not dwell on the name, they look like stacks of crackling which can't ever be a bad thing. Oreilles de Crisse were what I most wanted to try in Canada but never got the chance. They are traditionally served in the maple-making season drowned in syrup and are definitely a reason for me to seriously consider organising a cross country ski trip through sugar shack country at some point in the future.
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