Indian Food in Canada

Indian food is a more recent addition to the culinary scene in Canada, having gained prominence primarily in the post-1960s era of immigration. It is characterized mainly by the Northern Indian approach to cuisine, which features breads and warm curries and the use of yogurt and cream in meat-based dishes. But it also bears the influence of South Indian cooking, which frequently plays with the combination of sour and spicy and the use of tamarind and chilies. However, many typical Indo-Canadian dishes, such as kedgeree and some chutneys, are a product of Anglo-Indian cuisine stemming from Britain’s colonial rule of the Indian subcontinent.


Indian Food Curries and Dishes

Background: Indian Immigration to Canada

Estimates place the arrival of the first South Asian migrants to Canada in 1902 or 1903, arriving in Vancouver and hailing from Punjab. Although Indian immigrants, mostly single men, enjoyed some initial success, the eruption of anti-Asian race riots and subsequent legislation slowed the flow of migration from the South Asian subcontinent. In 1908, the Canadian Parliament passed legislation requiring migrants from India to arrive via a single continuous journey from their homeland. The result was a steep decline in immigration from the Indian subcontinent (see also Komagata Maru).

The change in Canadian immigration to a points-based system in the 1960s saw a dramatic increase in the number of Indian immigrants (see also Immigration Policy in Canada). Since the 1970s, Indians have come to Canada in increasing numbers from elsewhere in the diaspora, including East Africa and the Caribbean (see also: African Canadians; Caribbean Canadians). The vast majority of Canada’s Indian population remains settled in British Columbia or Ontario, where they make up a sizeable minority.

North Indian and South Indian Food: Key Differences

North Indian cuisine forms the basis of the Western experience with Indian restaurants. Heavily influenced by Central Asian cooking, North Indian cuisine is dominated by breads and warm curries. This, combined with the use of yogurt and cream in the often meat-based dishes, is largely responsible for Indian cuisine’s reputation in the West as a comfort food. Warm, spiced masala chai, sweetened with cinnamon and other spices, often ends a meal.

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