Like many of us that grew up in Nova Scotia, my favorite late night take out snack was the Donair, usually enjoyed late at night after the bars closed when struck with a hankering for something spicy, sweet and messy. Yes, I’ll admit to being part of a cult like following and performing weekend rituals of late night gatherings at local pizza shops for the most sought after take out item known to Maritimers.
What is a Nova Scotia Donair?
First, there is Donair meat; heavily spiced ground beef that’s shaped into a large loaf called a cone and roasted on a spit, then shaved into long meat slices and seared on a flat top. The meat is then wrapped in a warm moist pita too small for it’s toppings of onions and tomato and drizzled with enough sweet garlic sauce to drip down your elbows. It’s all about the sauce; a delicate balance of sweet and garlic. Consequently, it’s a mess to eat but there is an unspoken code among Donair lovers. No one ever looks good eating them, so no one judges you, even if you do have sauce drizzling down your chin.
History of Nova Scotia Donair
Once upon a time there were two Brothers Peter and John Kamoulakos who immigrated to Canada. They had a love for the Gyro from their homeland so they opened a shop in Bedford in 1967 so they so they could share their love of the Gyro with Haligonians
This lamb meat recipe traditionally served on a pita with Tzatziki sauce wasn't quite right for the folks of Halifax so they ditched the lamb for beef and crafted a distinctive sweet sauce, creating something quite removed from the Gyro. This was a huge hit and the legend began.The name "Donair" is said to have been made up by John when someone asked him what the new dish was called. He looked at the meat rotisserie machine for the cone which had "DONER" printed on it and said "Doner". From that point on the former traditional Gyro had born the legend of Donair. John went on to open Mr. Donair Ltd,. a supplier of donair products for pizza and restaurant customers and Peter went on to open PG Pizzeria on Herring Cove.Rd.
Peter passed away in the early 90’s of a heart attack (not known to be attributed to the donair) and John retired in 2007 selling Mr Donair to Tony’s Meats in Antigonish, NS.
Neither the meat nor the sauce were ever patented by the Kamoulakos leading to a never ending debate among those of us from Atlantic Canada and others claiming it’s origin.
Our Authentic Nova Scotia Donairs
We strive to provide Donairs just like downhome by sourcing donair cones directly from Mr Donair in Nova Scotia made using the original Kamoulakos Brothers recipe. Our sauce is house made using the four staple ingredients: canned evaporated milk, garlic powder, white vinegar and sugar. Pitas are sourced from a Lebanese bakery. For added authenticity, we sourced the original branded Auto Doner Machine that the Donair was named after. Most importantly, I stand guard over the final assembly of every donair ensuring the right amount of meat, toppings and sauce and the final tinfoil wrapping is precisely performed to perfection. Only then is it given my Maritimer’s Stamp of Approval before leaving the kitchen. Now that’s authentic…
Our Nova Scotia Donairs are served in our restaurant, Kalays where we serve up Authentic East Coast Food and Hospitality. The meat and sauce is available through our retail store and provided with detailed instructions for “How to Make Authentic East Coast Donairs” .
For all our displaced Maritimer friends, we ship our meat and sauce overnight to any destination in Canada. We stock many products from Atlantic Canada and are proud to be the official shipper for Chris Brothers Pepperoni.
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