May 3, 2014

Nanaimo Bar in Nanaimo

I have often disembarked and passed through the city of Nanaimo on my way to other points of interest in Vancouver Island.  But it dawned on me that I’ve never eaten a Nanaimo Bar in Nanaimo.  I was not really a fan of the ultra ultra sweet three-layer chocolate custard bar which I would occasionally try in the city of Vancouver - more than 30 nautical miles from Nanaimo across the Straight of Georgia.  But perhaps I was not munching the real thing.

So I began my quest for the original Nanaimo Bar in Nanaimo. 
Fortunately there is a Nanaimo Bar Trail that tells you where you can buy the various metamorphosis of  the Nanaimo Bar.  See

From the classic to specialty to vegan, one can also have a Nanaimo Bar ice cream sandwich, cupcake, Nanaimo Bar-Tini, an  NB Mousse or  NB Coffee (hot or iced), a sundae, milkshake, cheesecake, NB shooter, NB Martini, cake, fudge, cocktail, and more. You can print out the list of places that offer these interpretations:

The very first recipe with ingredients closest to the Nanaimo Bar of today was printed  in the 1952 Nanaimo Hospital cookbook, though it was referred to as Chocolate Square or Chocolate Slice then.  Click images to enlarge.


The first printed record of the name Nanaimo bar was in Edith Adams 1953 Cookbook. 

In 1986, the city of Nanaimo held a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe.  The winner was Joyce Hardcastle.   See Ms. Hardcastle's recipe at

There is an exhibit on the history of the bar and the winning recipe with 3-D stool ala Nanaimo Bars at The Nanaimo Museum, see

Well after some snooping, I found and tasted the Nanaimo Bar closest to Hardcastle’s recipe, next door to the museum at the Serious Coffee café.  Instead of almonds, this franchise uses walnuts, which is more true to the very first 1952 recipe.  It was very very sweet.

Just to let you know, a typical Nanaimo Bar at 68 grams contains 25 grams of sugar setting you off at 330 calories.

FYI:  Nanaimo is an anglicized version of snunéymuxw, a word referring to the Coast Salish Native people original to the area.

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