Halifax has earned a reputation as a top culinary destination for seafood lovers, particularly for its irresistible lobster. As the largest city on the East Coast, Halifax is home to a diverse array of mouth-watering lobster dishes crafted by renowned local chefs and innovative tourism operators.
Whether you’re a seasoned lobster connoisseur on a culinary quest or simply seeking to indulge in this iconic seafood, let us take you on a journey through the rich history and cultural significance of the Atlantic lobster. From its traditional cooking techniques to its coveted status as an export, this vibrant red crustacean is a must-try for all seafood enthusiasts.
The Atlantic lobster
The Atlantic lobster, scientifically known as Homarus americanus, is a species exclusive to the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Its presence in Halifax is made possible by the seasonal migration patterns of lobsters towards shallow waters for mating and egg-laying. As a result, the lobster fishing season in Atlantic Canada typically peaks twice a year, in the spring and winter, providing us with the freshest and most flavourful lobster.
For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have lived in harmony with the lands and waters near the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Mi’kmaq, for example, relied on the abundant spring lobster population, fishing with spears and hooks.
Prior to the mid-1800s, lobsters were in such plentiful supply that they were considered a cheap food source, even served in prisons. However, with the growth of coastal towns, lobster quickly became a staple, leading to the establishment of over 700 lobster canneries in Atlantic Canada by the early 1900s. Overfishing led to regulations in 1873-74, limiting the number of lobsters harvested each season and ultimately conserving the supply for future generations to enjoy as a sought-after delicacy.
The ability to transport live lobsters transformed the lobster industry and increased its value in the marketplace. By the mid-1800s, fishermen in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick had already begun shipping live lobsters to the U.S., setting the stage for the modern lobster industry. Today, lobster is a highly sought-after delicacy, reserved for special occasions and enjoyed in first-rate restaurants. The legacy of these early lobster exports continues to shape the way we harvest, process, and savour this iconic seafood delicacy.
The Nova Scotia lobster supper
The early methods of consuming lobsters, be it at home or in restaurants, are not well documented. However, the lobster cracker and pick have become staple tools for extracting the maximum amount of juicy meat. The Shore Club in Hubbards has been serving classic Nova Scotia lobster suppers since 1936 and continues to uphold this beloved tradition. This style of lobster supper can be found across Nova Scotia and PEI and typically features a whole steamed or boiled lobster served with melted butter for dipping, accompanied by potato salad, coleslaw, rolls, and butter.
Start with a bowl of steamed mussels or chowder, and finish with a generous serving of home-style dessert, like a traditional blueberry grunt, for a truly satisfying East Coast culinary experience.
The ultimate lobster experience
Halifax is renowned for its sumptuous lobster cuisine, where chefs elevate the delicacy with their expertly crafted dishes. From classic lobster rolls and chowders to unique creations like lobster poutine, eggs benedict, and pasta, the region is a haven for seafood lovers. Throughout the province, there are numerous regional specialties that showcase the versatility of this sought-after crustacean. Enjoy a decadent lobster meal at a fine dining establishment, a casual beer garden on the waterfront, or a community hall dinner. In Halifax, there’s no limit to the lobster possibilities.