Northerners know better than anyone that traditional country foods like moose and fish rarely need more than a bit of salt to taste delicious.
But as the tastes of more countries and cultures creep northward, experimental foodies are fusing the bold flavours of Asia and Latin America with staples like caribou and lake trout with tasty results.
EDGE asked a few Northern foodies to share their favourite culinary mashups for spicing up traditional treats, and the results sound delicious.
Reindeer Chipotle Enchiladas
Adam Bathe of Fort Smith says he picked up a lot of skills and flavours while working in a German-Canadian restaurant from the age of 12 to 21.
“We often had chefs from other culinary backgrounds work with us during the summer, so naturally there was a lot of messed-up fusion recipes going on,” he said.
His recipe for reindeer enchiladas comes from a former coworker, Venezuelan chef Carlos Fuenmayor. While the original didn’t include meat, Bathe’s love of caribou, moose and reindeer led him down this path to the perfect recipe.
“I think it hit perfection when I was staying in Inuvik for a couple months and discovered that I could get fresh reindeer from Lloyd Binder [of Canadian Reindeer],” Bathe said. “I ended up adding it to everything I ate, including my favourite enchilada recipe.”
- 1 pkg reindeer meat, cut into stir-fry strips
- 1 medium-sized sweet potato
- 1 cup grated cheese
- 1 lime
- 1 can chipotle peppers
Peel, boil and mash a sweet potato. While it’s still a little hot, add some cheese (mozzarella works well, but a good strong roquefort is Bathe’s favourite, and pairs well with the spiciness.) You want it to slightly melt but not totally mix into the sweet potato.
Add juice from one lime and salt and pepper to taste, and as many chipotle peppers in adobo sauce as you can handle. Set aside to cool.
Grill or fry strips of reindeer with a little butter and lime. Bathe finds the stir fry packs from Lloyd Binder’s Canadian Reindeer in Inuvik work well.
Put the sweet potato mix and meat on a tortilla. Roll it tight. Bake or grill the enchilada until the tortilla is crispy but not burnt. Serve with sour cream.
Optional additions: Both black beans and cilantro can be added to the mix. Caribou and moose also taste great!
East Arm Trout Tacos
Steve Ellis takes a Latin American classic on a trip to Lutsel K’e with his crispy fish tacos made with famous trout from the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. According to Ellis, homemade corn tortillas — made with masa flour — are a must, but can just as easily be bought at a grocery store. For spices, he prefers Hay River’s Back Eddy seasoning salt. And it goes without saying, but the best trout are the red-fleshed ones you get in the East Arm.
- 1 large trout, skinned, filleted and sliced
- 1 cup flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- Seasoning salt
- Cabbage, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and avocado
- 1 lime
- Hot sauce
Cut the fish into taco-sized pieces. Dip the fish in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs mixed with some seasoning salt and pan fry until brown and crispy.
Put the cooked fish in a tortilla and top with mayo, cabbage, tomato wedges, cilantro, avocado and red onion. If you want to get fancy, Ellis says you can soak the onions in vinegar overnight.
Add a squeeze of lime, and your favourite hot sauce. Eat like nobody’s watching.
Coconut Grouse Curry
As the North’s official “chicken,” grouse is the natural substitute for boring old chicken breast in this go-to curry recipe.
Olivia Villebrun of Fort Smith says her mom started making the dish with leftover turkey, but decided to “tune it up” with grouse so that her grandparents — who grew up in the bush — could enjoy it more.
- 2 grouse breasts
- 1 onion, diced
- Oil for frying
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp fresh ginger
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- 4 large beefsteak tomatoes, chopped
- 2 carrots, thinly sliced
- 1 can coconut milk
Chop grouse meat into cubes and set aside. Finely chop onions and cook in oil over high heat. Add garlic and ginger. Once onions are golden brown, add diced grouse meat and cook for 5 minutes. Add garam masala and curry powder, coating meat in spices. Add tomatoes and carrots, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add carrots and coconut milk, and simmer uncovered until sauce is reduced by half (around 30 minutes).
Best served with bannock or rice. Welcome toppings also include plain yogurt and mango chutney.
Whitefish are abundant in lakes and rivers throughout the Northwest Territories, and perfect for making the fresh, light and no-cook appetizer, ceviche.
A Peruvian dish, ceviche involves “cooking” seafood or fish by marinating it in the juice of citrus fruits, like lemons and limes. The acid in the juice actually cooks the fish protein, and gives it an incredibly refreshing flavour similar to other citrusy Latin American foods, like salsa fresca or guacamole.
Fort Smith’s Kevin Antoniak first served up a batch of delicious locally sourced ceviche as part of the community’s Gone Wild fur fashion show and wild foods gala several years ago, where it was a huge hit.
“I thought ceviche would be different and tasty,” he said. “A lot of people haven’t had it before and our local whitefish is perfect because there’s no parasites.”
While most fresh fish works for ceviche, the best are semi-firm, white-fleshed fish. Most chefs recommend avoiding oily fish and most other freshwater fish, like trout.
- 2 lbs of cold, fresh whitefish fillets cut into ½-inch cubes, completely deboned and with the bloodline removed
- ½ cup lime juice
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ red onion, finely diced
- 1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1-2 fresh red chillis, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh cilantro, mint and/or oregano to taste
- In a ceramic or glass dish, mix the fish, peppers and spices. Cover with lime and lemon juice. Let sit covered in the refrigerator for an hour, then stir to make sure all the fish is exposed to the acids in the juices. Let sit for several hours to give time for the flavours to blend. As the fish marinades, it will change from being pink and translucent to whiter in colour and opaque.
Serve with tortilla chips, or in tacos with avocado slices.
Stir-fried Moose Meat in Ahma’s Special Marinade
This recipe was concocted after Tee Lim was gifted some moose meat by the Etchinelle family while living in Tulita. His mom, who is Chinese Malaysian, was visiting and cooking dinner for him and some friends.
“I asked her to do something with a piece of the moose meat, and this is what she thought of,” Lim says. “The marinade recipe is her mother’s. ‘Ahma’ means grandma in Hokkien, our family dialect.”
Lim says the recipe became an instant hit.
“Certain cuts of moose can be a bit tough or chewy, but this came out amazingly tender. None of us had ever had moose prepared that way, but it was delicious.”
- Moose meat, sliced into thin pieces and lightly tenderised
- 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, smashed
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1 tsp cornflour 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp sherry Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and marinade the moose meat in the sauce for at least half an hour, minimum. The longer the better. Heat a heavy based pan with oil. Once oil is heated in pan, lightly fry moose meat in small batches for 1-2 mins. Turn moose meat over and fry another 1-2 mins. Serve with garnish of cucumber and tomatoes.