Donair could become Halifax's official food

Nothing quite satisfies a post-bar craving like a good donair, and Halifax city councillor Linda Mosher wants the world to know it.

Councillor Linda Mosher worried Edmonton might claim Halifax-invented dish as its official food

The donair is considered by many to be a Halifax classic. (The Original Mr. Donair )

Nothing quite satisfies a post-bar craving like a good donair, and Halifax city councillor Linda Mosher wants the world to know it. 

"You must have heard of people going to Toronto and getting upset outside bars because they couldn't get a donair," Mosher said Saturday.

She has put forward a report to the Halifax regional council to make the donair the city's official food. 

Halifax's — or Edmonton's?

And she wants a vote now — before another city claims credit. 

Edmonton, home to more than a few displaced Maritimers, considered calling the donair its own official food, Mosher's report says. 

So good, the world noticed, says Mosher

The councillor has been eating donairs — sliced and spiced beef wrapped in a pita drizzled with sweet sauce — since her university days.

The "unique and famous delicacy," as her report calls it, was first invented in Halifax by a Greek chef who opened King of Donair, which still serves customers on Quinpool Road.

King of Donair is in Coun. Linda Mosher's district. (Pam Berman/CBC)

The popular dish has spread to many of the region's restaurants and caught the attention of people abroad, including celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

"It's something that you can't find anywhere else," Mosher said. "We're known for good lobsters and other things, but lots of places have lobster, and this is something that's very unique to Halifax."

Recipe important, says King of Donair owner 

Many people have emotional connections to donairs driven by memories of eating with friends, King of Donair owner Norman Nahas said Saturday.

"We love hearing stories about people's first donair," Nahas said.

"When people come in from the States, or people who used to go to university here, that's what they first come to eat. A lot of people come as soon as they get off the airplane."

Some restaurants have tried twists on the favourite dish, from the doughnairnut to donair soup, but Nahas is dedicated to tradition.

The donair was adapted from the gyro, lamb wrapped in pita with the yogurt-based tzatziki sauce, but Nova Scotians weren't used to the taste of lamb, he said. The recipe was altered to include beef, more heavily spiced, with a sweet sauce of the East Coast staple of evaporated milk, vinegar, garlic powder and sugar. It's often served with diced tomatoes and raw onions.

"The meat needs to be cut nice and thin and the pita just tossed," Nahas said. "It needs to be wrapped like an ice cream cone."

City council could discuss donairs at their next meeting.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story listed one of the critical ingredients in a donair's signature sauce as being condensed milk. After a slew of angry (and possibly hungry) emails, we have corrected the story to say evaporated milk.
    Oct 18, 2015 6:00 AM AT

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