When you think of Alberta, what comes to mind? Perhaps Banff and Jasper National Parks, free-roaming bison and grizzly bears, or maybe even nothing - since much of Alberta is, indeed, remote land that's densely wooded and unpopulated. However, that doesn't mean that this region of Canada doesn't have its own cuisine and, while a bit unusual, it's quite delicious in its own way. Alberta is known for many iconic dishes with some featuring international influence and others spawning from local culture and tradition, which is what makes it so dang wonderful.
Just as a cuisine would differ from region to region in any other country, Alberta's most popular dishes differ drastically from those which one would find in Montreal or another popular Canadian destination. From Alerbta's own brand of beef to its Vietnamese take on sandwiches and pension for Asian food, there's nothing not to love about all of the favorites in this part of Canada.
Bison were once one of the most popular animal species in the region and while their numbers have dwindled, it hasn't stopped bison meat from continuing to be something Alberta is known for. It's easy to mistake bison for beef similar to that of a cow, but it's very different and, if cooked correctly, can become even more tender. Bison takes about half the cooking time and is very lean with a high iron count. Low and slow cooking does this cut of meat tremendous justice so it can often be found in stews and braised with vegetables.
Alberta is home to a high Ukrainian population, according to Eat This Town, which explains why pierogies are so abundantly popular. They can be seen at many Ukrainian Church events but also on many local menus depending on where a visitor is eating. The great thing about eating pierogies in Alberta is that they're usually homemade and made in the traditional way, rather than the frozen pierogies (not that there's anything wrong with that) found at other dining establishments. There's a rich culture surrounding this dish and if you have the chance to try these potato-filled dumplings, do it!
It's not uncommon to hear of the U.S. Americanizing certain foods but ginger beef is something that was westernized by Calgary, specifically. Supposedly, the dish was created at a local inn named the Silver Inn back in the 1980s, and the dish has stuck around for some time now. In Calgary, Chinese food is a pretty big deal and ginger beef, in particular, is a dish that can be found around the city, not just in Chinese restaurants.
Interestingly enough, Alberta Beef doesn't necessarily come from cows that were raised in Alberta. Rather, this beef gets its name from being processed in Alberta, making it a signature dish from the moment it's turned into, well, steaks. The steaks themselves are always well-marbled and full of flavor and can be found throughout the region, most commonly at steakhouses where this cut is ordered specifically.
Chawki El-Homeira, a Lebanese immigrant who came to Alberta in 1978, is the person responsible for bringing the donair to the region. Specifically, the Edmonton Donair is the pita wrap that's iconic in Alberta, featuring meat and fillings that are similar to the Greek gyro. These wraps can be found almost everywhere and are popular for lunch and dinner on the go, and, interestingly enough, donairs and their fillings differ between Canadian cities.
French colonialism is responsible for bringing Vietnamese cuisine to Alberta and the Vietnamese sub is a result of that. With all of the traditional ingredients of a Bahn Mi - patê, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and chilies - a Vietnamese sub is a tribute to the popular sandwich but is made with a submarine roll instead. Oftentimes it can be paired with Vietnamese-style meat such as marinated chicken or meatballs and is served with bubble tea on the side.
Talk about traditions! Since Alberta is, indeed, the sunniest location in the country, it's not surprising that it's also the largest producer of corn. Specifically, the corn comes from a town called Taber which is where the term 'Taber corn' came from. The corn agriculture is so great in the region that every year, an annual Taber Cornfest occurs, complete with roasted ears and local entertainment. Many companies have tried to get away with claiming that their corn is local, though - so if you're looking for Taber corn, specifically, it must be locally-certified first.