Top 10 Most Popular Ethnic Cuisines in Canada According to Google
Cuisine in the Great White North is itself pretty much a “smörgåsbord” of various cuisines so Canadians are used to a wide range of eating experiences. Being one of the most multicultural countries in the world, we would expect ethnic foods to feature regularly at meal times both at home and when eating out.
Being such a mix, which cuisines come out on top?
Chef’s Pencil has analyzed data from Google Trends to find out how the food of the world ranks on Canada’s palate.
Google provides data on a whole range of topics, including national cuisines, and allocates a score that indicates the level of interest in the topic.
Google uses AI to categorize search terms for national cuisines. For example, Japanese cuisine will comprise hundreds or thousands of searches related to the topic such as Japanese restaurants, Japanese rice, sushi, sushi recipes, Japanese food, and even names of well-known Japanese restaurants.
Google then counts how often they are used in countries, provinces, towns and cities relative to all local searches and allocates an interest score.
For example, if Brampton scores 100 for Indian cuisine and Toronto scores 80, it doesn’t mean more searches were done in Brampton than in Toronto; it means a higher percentage of people in Brampton than in Toronto searched for Indian cuisine.
5. Mexican (Popularity Score 23)
If the experience over the last decade in Toronto is anything to go by, there’s been a seismic shift in the quality of Mexican food in the country, according to the Globe and Mail.
Torontonians used to think Tex-Mex was as good as it got in Mexico, but they are now getting “the real thing” thanks to better trade policies and increasing immigration – well, if the US doesn’t want you, just keep going North – in the 5 years between 2011 and 2016, four times as many Mexicans ventured as far as Canada than in the entire 1980s.
And they brought with them their unique flavors derived from exquisite spices, over 100 varities of chili, and plentiful ways of using corn.
Among Canadian provinces, Mexican food is most popular in British Columbia, followed by Alberta and Ontario. The province least impressed with this fun, spicy cuisine is New Brunswick, where, according to Google Trends, Mexican cuisine is three times less popular than in British Columbia.
With one of the highest rates of Mexican migrants, Vancouver scored a full 100 for the cuisine making it the capital of Mexican food in Canada. Other cities where Mexican cuisine is hugely popular are Barrie, ON, Kelowna, BC and Coquitlam, BC.
Capital of Mexican cuisine: Vancouver, BC
4. Indian (Popularity Score 25)
About 15 years ago the Globe and Mail proclaimed that “Canadians haven’t fallen for Indian food”. Fast forward to 2019, Indian cuisine has become one of the popular international cuisines in Canada. Indeed, Canadians love their spicy curries.
First came North Indian food, the comfort food of India, from the Punjab at the turn of the 20th century. Then, in the 1960s, food from southern India, the more vegetable-based cuisine, arrived and grocery stores and restaurants began to spring up.
Today, the provinces scoring the highest for Indian food are British Columbia (Score: 100) and Ontario (Score: 87). This is not too surprising as Ontario and British Columbia are home to the largest Indian-Canadian communities.
The capital of Indian food in Canada is, by a long way, Brampton, Ontario, which scored 91. Brampton is home to a large Indian minority and is brimming with fantastic Indian restaurants. Surrey and Delta, both in British Columbia, are a distant second both scoring 63.
Capital of Indian cuisine: Brampton, ON
3. Thai (Popularity Score 33)
Probably one of the newest minority communities in Canada beginning with young Thais travelling to the country as students in the 1950s. Most returned home of course, but the link had been made. When financial crisis hit Thailand in the 1990s, many looked to Canada for new opportunities and brought with them their pungent, harmonious cuisine.
Locally, Thai cuisine is most popular in British Columbia (Google Score: 100), followed by Ontario (Google Score: 76) and Nova Scotia (Google Score: 71).
But it is the Ontario city of Thunder Bay that gets the title of Thai food capital of Canada, scoring 81, with Vancouver second with 67. Perhaps it’s the connection with water – Thunder Bay sits on the shores of the world’s largest lake, Lake Superior, or the sunny climes – it is the sunniest city in Canada, either way the city has a clear love of Thai cuisine.
Capital of Thai cuisine: Thunder Bay, ON
2. Italian (Popularity Score 36)
When a recent Italian migrant to Canada began to work with third-generation Italians, she found they has Canada-ized the language – insuranza for insurance, and basamento for basement. Unsurprisingly, the same has happened to the food.
Based on seasonal food and local produce, Italian food has adapted to Canada’s growing seasons and the local taste creating the “culinary newborn” Italian-Canadian cuisine. So no surprise the cuisine is the nation’s second most favored ethnic food.
Ontario scored highest for Italian food among the provinces with a full 100 points. British Columbia scored second and Alberta third. While the least score went to Newfoundland and Labrador. In other words, Italian food is three times more popular in Ontario compared to Newfoundland.
Enthusiasm for the food is high. The four top city scores were Richmond Hill, Ontario – 90, Vancouver, BC and Burlington, Ontario – 94, and just pipping them at the top is Vaughan, Ontario – 95, although with one of the highest concentrations of Italian migrant, not so much unexpected.
Capital of Italian cuisine: Vaughan, ON
1. Chinese (Popularity Score 55)
Once Chinese workers had finished building the nation in the 1800s, they turned to cooking – in cafes, restaurants and private homes. A cuisine highly adapted to the local taste, when the next wave of immigrants came in the 1960s, they demanded more authentic Chinese food. So a long and varied history, culminating in the cuisine being the nation’s most favored ethnic taste.
But adaption continues, of course, making the most of local ingredients and, at one time, coping with a lack of access to authentic ingredients. All leading to the creation of dishes such as Newfoundland Chow Mein – made with cabbage instead of noodles, although chow mein literally means friend noodle, Thunder Bay Bon Bons – nothing to do with the sweets, and Albertan Ginger Beef – a favorite of the Prairies.
Wondering where Chinese is most popular in Canada? It’s British Columbia (again!) that scored highest for Chinese cuisine. No wonder given British Columbia is home to about a third of the Chinese-Canadian. Alberta came in closely behind and Prince Edward Island come in third.
But the undisputed capital Canadian city for this colorful, aromatic cuisine is Richmond, British Columbia which scored 71, the city where “Far East meets Canadian West Coast” and 65% of the population are Asian.
Capital of Chinese cuisine: Richmond, BC
Chef’s Pencil has analysed Google Trends data for the past 12 months (January 1st 2019 through December 31st 2019). Google Trends popularity scores are relative and not absolute. Please see below how Google defines regional popularity scores:
Values are calculated on a scale from 0 to 100, where 100 is the location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that location, a value of 50 indicates a location which is half as popular. A value of 0 indicates a location where there was not enough data for this term.
Note: A higher value means a higher proportion of all queries, not a higher absolute query count. So a tiny country where 80% of the queries are for “bananas” will get twice the score of a giant country where only 40% of the queries are for “bananas”.
Only cities with a population of over 100,000 were included in the study.
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