Image source: Flickr - Tony Hisgett
Of the many quirks on Canada's plate, food rarely pops up. But meandering through any one of Canada's largest cities—Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, or Calgary—is a gastronomical experience as fine as any. Although a slew of international cuisines await, what better way to introduce your palate to the flavors of Canada than to taste one of the country's most famous home-grown dishes.
If there's one dish most associated with Canadian cuisine it's Quebec's most famous late-night snack: poutine.
Sure, this carb- and grease-laden combination of melted cheese curds, gravy, and fresh-cut fries isn't winning any fans in the medical community, but let's face it: no one eats poutine for the health benefits. Poutine is comfort food on steroids, a rare snack that fulfils as heartily as a home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner, but may, in fact, require more exercise to burn off.
Served with gusto in a variety of ways, finding the perfect classic poutine in Canada can be like searching out the best sushi restaurant in Tokyo. When in doubt, head over to Montreal, whose residents proudly claim Canada's best poutine and will point you in the direction of their favorite snack-shack.
Montreal Smoked Meat
While farmers elsewhere in Quebec tilled the fields to perfect their poutine-bound potatoes, butchers in Montreal were whipping up something that would soon charm the taste buds of the whole country.
Little is known about the exact history of Montreal smoked meat, but in the early twentieth century, the cured and spiced kosher-style beef served on rye was already becoming a hit among Montrealers, even as restaurant owners squabbled about who stumbled upon the recipe first.
Although often compared to New York pastrami, Montreal smoked meat is wholly unique in its preparation. Carved from beef brisket and dry-cured with salt and spices like coriander and cracked peppercorns unlike its navel-cut and brine-cured cousin, Montreal smoked meat is as gourmet as deli meat comes.
Like poutine, searching out the tastiest Montreal smoked meat sandwich can be a challenge. Opinions can run hot, but Schwartz's Deli on Saint-Laurent in Montreal is as famous a smoked meat institution as any. With line-ups perpetually piling onto the street, be sure to visit with both patience and an empty stomach.
Calgary Ginger Beef
Like most items on your favorite Chinese take-out menu, Calgary ginger beef isn't exactly what you'd find on your plate in Hong Kong or Beijing. And despite the almost cult status of ginger beef in Alberta, many Chinese food fans are unaware that those beloved crispy, deep-fried strips of beef—marinated in garlic, hot peppers, sugar, vinegar, and of course, ginger—are as Canadian as a Jiggs Dinner or donair.
Variations of ginger beef can be found on menus across Canada, but if you want to chow down on the real thing, there's no substitute for a stop in Calgary. Try both the Ginger Beef Bistro House and Silver Inn, both of whom claim to have invented Alberta's favorite take-out dish, and settle the deadlock for country's best ginger beef.
Have you ever tried any of these Canadian favorites? What did you think? Tell us about it in the comments section below!