Canadian food culture is too often mixed up with the rest of what people regard as “western food culture.” And, in some regards, that’s not wrong!
However, it doesn’t take into account all the cuisines that make up the backbone of some of the most traditional Canadian dishes — with these cuisines having originated from Canada’s Indigenous peoples as well as the English, the Scottish, and the French settlers.
Today, we brought in the professional Canadian Chef, Bobby Rahman, who has worked in Canadian restaurants that are known for its authentic and traditional Canadian cooking to talk about the food traditions in his homeland!
Let’s jump straight in with Chef Rahman! Please introduce yourself to our readers!
Bobby Rahman: Hello! You can just call me Chef Bobby, or even Bobby if you like. I work as a professional chef (I was certified after graduating from a culinary school) that specializes in authentic Canadian cooking.
For those who do not know of authentic Canadian cooking how would you go about describing it?
Bobby Rahman: Canadian cooking is not necessarily about a singular signature style or flavor. There are too many origin-cuisines to consider for that to work.
So, instead, what is considered authentic Canadian cooking are the meals that are prepared with the ingredients that are grown or cultivated from our homelands.
How does Canadian Cuisine differ based on what region of Canada you are in?
Bobby Rahman: That would be where the ‘signature styles’ and ‘flavors’ come in. For example, in English Canada (I’m talking about heavily English-speaking regions like Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, etc.), British cuisine is what is most featured. On the other hand, French-Canadian cooking is most propagated in heavily French-influenced regions (e.g., Quebec)
What is the average day-to-day Canadian food culture like?
Bobby Rahman: Well, contrary to popular misconceptions, breakfast does not always mean eating pancakes with maple syrup (or just any food with maple syrup for that matter)!
In fact, the traditional Canadian breakfast is usually pretty heavy, with eggs, fried pork sausages, or bacon.
Lunch, on the other hand, is a little more wishy-washy these days — many Canadians usually just eat what’s easiest to come by in between hours of work (Canadian Chinese food, for example, is a staple!) Dinner is pretty wishy-washy as well (although there is usually more shopping at grocery stores involved) as there’s usually nothing specific that we’re inclined towards.
Are there any specific Canadian recipes served during certain holidays?
Bobby Rahman: There are a couple of staples, yes! For example:
- Thanksgiving (Burns Day), is especially ripe with Scottish influences with the appearance of traditional Scottish dishes like haggis, cock-a-leekie soups, Dundee cakes, etc.
- Canada Day, on the other hand, is a little closer to our Western counterparts with the usual fare being hamburgers and hot dogs — spiced up with the more traditional Canadian Nanaimo bars or the Canadian favourite butter tart as a dessert or snack.
How about distinguishable regional dishes?
Bobby Rahman: Actually, a lot of some of the more popular traditional Canadian recipes are restricted by region (again, because Canadian cuisine is all about the availability of ingredients.) So, for a couple of examples of regional foods:
Eastern Canada is especially popular for this pie (which is prepared from the flappers of the regional harp seals).
This is popular in Northern Canada where caribou roam in the mountains and forests where they are protected in the cold.
Are also classic in Eastern regions of Canada — especially in Canada’s Atlantic Coast (like Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, etc.) where the best lobsters can be found.
In Western Canada, the pacific salmon is especially prolific and are eaten either fresh or are smoked to dry (as a jerky-like food that keeps very well!)
What are some of your favorite Canadian foods? (Please describe them for our readers!)
Bobby Rahman: If we’re talking popular about Canadian recipes that would be the following:
- Poutine: Can’t go wrong with poutine! These are French fries covered in gravy and topped with fresh cheese curds (the perfect cheat meal!)
- Peameal bacon: Canadian bacon, which is rolled in pea flour and fried!
- Butter tarts: A bite-sized pastry that is filled with semi-solid butter, sugar, syrup, and egg. (Keeps very well when frozen!)
- Montreal Style Bagels: Which are distinctively handmade and wood-fire baked.
I can go on, of course! But less specifically are dishes that use popular ingredients, like split pea soup (made from dried split peas), smoked meat & meat pie (game meats are especially popular in Canada), Saskatoon Berry pie (made from Saskatoon berries), and so on!
For fun, what Canadian dish do you like best that incorporates the ever-popular Canadian Maple Syrup?
Bobby Rahman: Outside of pancakes and waffles you mean? Canadian Maple Pie (popular in Quebec) and maple syrup snow candy (which is literally fresh snow rolled with maple syrup!) are my two favorites.
What is the dining experience like in Canada?
Bobby Rahman: Well, in the major cities (e.g., Vancouver and Quebec), you can find restaurants that serve just about anything. Outside of that, we’re particularly proud of our fine-dining restaurants here. Not to be forgotten is Canada’s thriving selection of street food as well.
And also, as a nod to authentic Canadian cooking, farm-to-table establishments are especially popular in the more rural areas (where one can really experience the freshness of ingredients.)
And to finish us off! Is there any Canadian-specific dining etiquette that we should watch out for?
Bobby Rahman: Not particularly if you’re already familiar with the dining etiquette in the United States. By that I mean, service is usually not included in our menus, so to be courteous to your server, you are usually expected to tip based on the experience they provided.