The donair is to Halifax what the banh mi is to Saigon, the jambon-beurre to Paris. It is a quintessential Haligonian gastronomic experience, as East Coast as Jiggs dinner. Best eaten late at night and on the street, it is a sweet and savoury, tasty and messy snack for meat lovers. For a long time, it was something you rarely found outside of the East Coast, save for poor imitations and pretenders.
To the uninitiated, the donair is intimidating. First, there is donair meat, heavily spiced ground beef that’s shaped into a large loaf and roasted on a spit, then shaved and seared on a flat top range. The meat is placed on a thin, Lebanese-style pita and topped with tomatoes and raw onions. The donair sauce is an addictively sweet blend of evaporated milk, vinegar, garlic powder and sugar. The sandwich is wrapped in tinfoil and eaten out of hand. Kind of. As the pita has a tendency to sop up the juices and sauces, making the bread fall apart, donairs are best eaten over a cardboard plate and as far away from your body as possible.
OH. MY. GOD. A properly done donair is Food of the Gods…especially late at night after a few too many wobbly pops.
Halifax’s donair: The tastiest treat you have probably never heard of