Maritimes Nova Scotia

Unique Foods of Nova Scotia

After writing my post about the unique foods of Newfoundland, I was inspired to do one for Nova Scotia.

I know what you’re thinking; oh! foods of Nova Scotia! Mussels, scallops, haddock, clams and the omnipresent lobster. Yes, these are all celebrated foods of Nova Scotia, and yes, they are fantastic. But you can get quality seafood anywhere there is a decent shoreline.  I want to talk about food that is unique to the Maritimes, and while lobster and wild blueberries are indeed regional delights, I’m instead going to talk about some of the lesser known regional foods.

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1) Solomon Gundy

Solomon Gundy is just pickled herring. It is sold in a jar, and typically placed on a cream cheese laden cracker. This is one of my favourite snacks. Pickled herring is not uniquely Nova Scotian. Germans, for example, roll it around pickles and call it “rollmops”. What is particularly interesting is that the only place in the world that refers to pickled herring as “solomon gundy” is Nova Scotia. Elsewhere, “solomon gundy” is known as a Jamaican pate of pickled smoked herring spiced with chile peppers.

2) Dulse
Stay focused on the above picture of the Solomon Gundy for now. See the purple stuff? That’s dulse. That’s Nova Scotia’s favourite dried seaweed. Most often, it is just eaten right out of the bag.

3) Garlic Fingers

Garlic Fingers with donair sauce from Pizza Delight.

The uninformed have often informed me that you can get “garlic bread sticks” anywhere. As if all sticks made out of a bread-like substance and flavoured with garlic were created equal!

Garlic fingers are more revered than pizza by many Maritimers. We are talking about pizza dough slathered with garlic butter and mozzarella cheese and baked just like a pizza. It is then cut into strips, dunked in sweet donair sauce, and regarded very highly among starving students, late-night drunks, sailors, hipsters, thugs, crusty punks, yuppies, blue collar roughians and all the fine folks that make up the Haligonian demographic. Other “garlic breads” are bland bready boredom in comparison. This magnificent decadence is made possible merely by a combination of garlic, cheese, pizza dough and, most importantly, donair sauce.

4) Hodge Podge

I’m not sure if hodge podge is eaten everywhere in Nova Scotia, but it is certainly enjoyed in it’s south shore; never in restaurants, but in homes. Come spring and summer the local markets start advertising their “hodge podge potatoes” and various vegetables like carrots, peas, parsley and wax beans that compose this celebration of Nova Scotian gardens. It is prepared lovingly the same way all homestyle Nova Scotian meals are cooked – in cream.

5) Beep

A Beep slushie from Sugah! Halifax

So apparently Beep used to be sold all over the place in the 1960s but continued in Nova Scotia until just a few years ago. Suddenly, this year, Farmer’s Dairy brought it back! … for a limited time only (we’ll see). This is the funky juice, sold in a carton, that a lot of us grew up on. It is a mixture of various chemicals, as well as apple and orange juice, apricot puree and prune syrup. The above picture shows a Beep slushie I found at the Tall Ships festival this summer.

6) Meat Paste Eggrolls

A meat paste eggroll from Look Ho Ho, Halifax.

Eggrolls drastically vary from city to city, I’ve learned. The ones I grew up eating had ground pork and cabbage in them. But when I moved to Halifax, I was abruptly introduced to the “meat paste eggroll”. For a while I wasn’t sure if this was really a Halifax thing, or a Nova Scotian thing, but the more research I do, the more I see people in forums asking the same questions: “What the hell is up with the eggrolls in Halifax?” or “Help! I’ve moved to Ontario and their eggrolls don’t have meat paste in them!” I grew to really miss these when I moved to Calgary, which is a springroll city, NOT an eggroll city. Expect more on the topic of eggrolls in the future!

7) Potato Skins (East Coast Style)

A potato skin from Maxwell’s Plum, Halifax.

Sitting in a pub in Ontario I noticed a dish called “potato skins” that were .. not quite right. As I moved westwards, I kept seeing these “not-quite-right” potato skins. It was like, a potato chopped into quarters and carefully topped with cheese, onions, and bacon. Could it be, thought I, that the rest of Canada makes potato skins differently than back home? My suspicions were reinforced when a Maritime-themed pub opened in Calgary and served “East Coast Potato Skins – all skins, no potato”. These are laid out like nachos and baked with cheddar cheese, bacon pieces and green onions. Sour cream on the side. In my not-so-humble opinion, this is what potato skins were meant to be.

8) Deep Fried Pepperoni

Deep fried pepperoni from Colby Ale House, Cole Harbour.

For the longest time, I had no idea this was a Nova Scotian thing. That same pub in Calgary that served the east coast potato skins also served deep fried pepperoni and even bragged that they imported it from Nova Scotia! I’m not so sure that this step was necessary, but I guess the intent was to be as authentic as possible. Most pepperoni in Nova Scotia is produced by the Brothers Deli or Chris Brothers. When deep fried and served with honey or hot mustard, this is a real treat.

9) The Legendary Halifax Donair

*Disclaimer: The following image may be disturbing to some viewers.

A donair from Venus Pizza, Halifax

*Disclaimer: Eating the above item may alter your body chemistry for up to 3 days.

Here is a preliminary introduction to the Halifax donair; a topic that I will be discussing at length in the future.
1) Donairs were invented in Halifax in the 1970s.
2) It is different than a Turkish/German “doner kebab”, a Greek/American “gyro” or a “beef shwarma”.
3) Donairs in Alberta consistently fail to replicate the monstrosity of the Halifax donair.
4) There is only one sauce that goes on a donair, i.e. donair sauce.
5) Donair = donair meat + pita + donair sauce + onions + tomato. Acceptable additions sometimes include mozzarella, pepperoni, or lettuce.

That’s all for now! I completely welcome feedback and/or debate about what I had to say about Nova Scotian foods. The comment section is right below!

    17 Comments

  1. Pepperoni on a donair sounds amazing… Mozzarella is always welcome. But lettuce?? The unique texture of the donair is one of its hallmarks. You want more crunch? Add more onions.

    Reply

    • Occasionally you will see lettuce on a donair in the Maritimes. It is the most controversial topping. Big Reds uses it, as they sprinkle lettuce and tomato on top of the donair. But they have a unique style of donair as it is. I agree with you – out with lettuce!

      Reply

  2. Thank you for posting this! I found it while searching for “paste egg rolls”. They say you can find anything on the internet, but let me tell you, there is NOTHING (so far) about how to make those paste egg rolls (which might sound terrible, but taste OH SO GOOOOD.) I would love to see a future post about this as there is nothing else out there about this gastronomical mystery. I’ve been living in Halifax since 1985. The food (quality and diversity) is beyond incredible. The organic produce from organic farms grown in rich, red clay soils near the ocean are INCREDIBLE. I normally despise greens or anything salad, but the stuff they grow here is so sweet and salty all on its own, you don’t even need butter. LOVE the local food here.

    Reply

    • Thanks! It’s nice to see your enthusiasm! It seems a lot of people stumble onto my blog whilst searching for “meat paste eggrolls”. There doesn’t seem to be much literature on the subject. It will definitely a project of further research.

      Reply

      • Ay luv, Great job, you be doin’ us proud. We make our own egg rolls (ground pork or ground beef) in the fall but we also make Deer or Moose egg rolls ! You can buy donair eggrolls as well.
        Something about the fall, we all bake pies, pickle down some beets, make a variety of pickles and come hunting season, we start an assembly line for a few hundred eggrolls of the desired catch.

        Reply

  3. I just got sooo very homesick reading this 🙂
    I am from South Shore, Nova Scotia but have lived in Calgary the past 7 years.
    Hodge podge, Solomon gundy, deep fried pepperoni, and Donairs are an obsession of mine lol.

    Great Job on the post!

    Reply

  4. could you please tell me where I could order some real dulce, I don’t want the powdered capsule staff. I found a place this morning with a picture of it for 15 95 a bag. pushed the wrong key and lst it.

    Reply

  5. I find your comments in your article about Nova Scotians offensive. Your reference to poor ass Nova Scotians and ruffians in particular. I f you don’t like Nova Scotia then stay the hell away and by the way your article on Soloman Gundy was totally incorrect but if you had bothered to ask one of the poor assed Nova Scotians you would have had an article with the right information

    Reply

    • I’m sorry that you found my comments offensive. In no way shape or form were they meant to be so. I am a born and raised Nova Scotian and love this province with all my heart. My comments were meant to be light hearted and tongue-in-cheek. In what way was my article on Soloman Gundy “totally incorrect”? I have done a lot of research on the topic, as well as eating it my whole life. I have received TONS of positive feedback from my fellow Nova Scotians on this article. If you have some issues you would like to discuss further, please e-mail me at shipwrekkt@gmail.com and I would be happy to talk about it. G’day.

      Reply

  6. Hi, I just found your site when a friend of mine linked to your NONO Pizza Quest. I grew up in Halifax but I live in Seattle now and this article made me so homesick! Thanks for this great article!

    Reply

  7. Took me back to the late 1980’s working in Nova Scotia. You got all the good “quirky” Maritimes food covered. If you ever do an “antithesis” report on bad “quirky” Maritimes food, I can start you off with the Happy Hour “nachos” I had one late afternoon at a Halifax waterfront bar/restaurant – commercial taco chips covered with paprika and NO cheese. I’ll take a donair any day . . .

    Reply

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