Arbys Curly Fries Poutine - Detail - © 2018 Arbys

Street Food Discoveries: Canada – Under Our Noses!

So, I asked sister Erin what country’s street food I ought to explore next in this Monday Morning space. She hemmed and hawed, and suggested a couple of exotic locales which didn’t really turn my crank. Then, out of the blue, she said, “You haven’t done Canada, yet…”

Montreal Steamie - © @4kornersThe revered Montreal Steamie: Grab-and-go with a French Canadian touch!

Sounds odd, I know. Not having even considered my own country’s signature street foods ‘discovery’ worthy until now. But that’s a great example of the old ‘It was right there, under my nose, all along!’ principle. And once I got thinking about it, I realized there are lots of truly Canadian grab-and-go treats that one should not miss when they visit us…

On our menu today

Montreal Style Bagels: They’re cousins to the New York Bagel, which they superficially resemble, but distinctly different, as Wikipedia explains: “In contrast to the New York-style bagel, which also contains sourdough, the Montreal bagel is smaller, thinner, sweeter and denser, with a larger hole, and is always baked in a wood-fired oven…

Montreal Bagels - ©

…It contains malt, egg, and no salt, and is boiled in honey-sweetened water before being baked.” They come in a variety of flavours but the plain and sesame versions are most trad. Serve with a schmear of cream cheese.”

Montreal Hot Dog: AKA the Steamé or Steamie. The Decarie Hot Dog (see photo, top of page) is perhaps the best representative of the classic form: Steamed dogs are served on steamed buns with slaw, chopped onions, mustard and relish. Considered to be on the small side by Dog aficionados; so order two.

Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich: Here’s an icon of street-level Canadian cuisine: Montreal Smoked Meat is brine-cured brisket that’s cooked low and slow on a wood-fired smoker.

Smoked Meat Sandwich - ©

Place thick slices straight out of the smoker between two pieces of light rye bread and slather with mustard. Serve with a quartered dill pickle and coleslaw on the side.

Poutine: Yes. It IS Canadian, in spite of what some folks in Vermont and New Hampshire still claim. It was first served in a Warwick, Quebec diner in 1957 when a customer asked the proprietor, Fernand Lachance, to put some of the fresh cheddar cheese curds sitting in little bags by the cash register on his fries and gravy. Lachance thought about it a minute and replied, “Ça va faire une maudite poutine!” (“That’s gonna make one awful damned mess!”) The rest is history.

Peameal Bacon on a Bun: It’s essentially wet-cured and unsmoked pork loin that’s rolled in cornmeal. They originally used peameal as a crust that helped extend the product’s shelf life, hence the name.

Peameal Bacon Sandwich - ©

Fried in its own fat (like more-cp0onvetional strip bacon) the stuff comes out lightly browned and delightfully (but not overwhelmingly) salty. It’s classically served on a Kaiser Roll with a moderate dose of mustard.

Cheddar Cheese Curds: A fantastic snack all by themselves! These little gems, about as thick as your index finger and usually mo more than 2 in. / 5 cm long, are really just the cut, stacked milk solids from the Cheddar Cheese making process before they’re pressed into blocks. They must be fresh and rubbery – preferably still warm – and squeak when you bite into them. Juust pop them in your mouth and chew away!

Beaver Tails: First seen at a craft fair in a small town just west of Canada’s capital, Ottawa, the Beaver Tail is a deep-fried dough slab said to resemble the flat tail of a Canadian Beaver. It can be topped with just about anything you want, sweet or savoury.

Beaver Tails Pastry - © Queues de Castor via Facebook

But the traditional treatment is a liberal dusting of Cinnamon and Sugar. Best eaten hot out of the fryer, from the original stand at Ottawa’s Byward market, shacks along the world’s longest skating rink at the Winterlude festival, or stalls at many Eastern Ontario fairs and shows throughout the year.

Maple Syrup Toffee: This is a very-Quebec spring, sugaring-time tradition. Hot maple syrup right from the boiler is drizzled on fresh, cold snow from the nearest drift and immediately turns to sticky, pullable free-form toffee. Not just a treat – a whole-family activity!

And you thought Canada was boring!

These are just a few of Canada’s iconic street-and-stall foods, some that have endured for many years and some just a few decades old. Don’t miss out oin the foregoing funky foods when you’re in their home-towns!

~ Maggie J.