This post originally appeared on the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada website.
Inspired by the land, oceans, and forests of Canada’s diverse landscapes, contemporary Indigenous cuisine has fast catapulted into the mainstream. Based on living in balance with your surroundings, respecting all forms of life, and giving back to the earth, traditional Indigenous cuisine revolves around no-waste, head-to-tail cooking. Now Indigenous chefs are pushing boundaries and innovating by adding contemporary touches to traditional plates. For those who wish to sample Indigenous cuisine, here are 12 food experiences not to miss, from coast to coast to coast.
Indigenous-owned restauranteurs are showing urban visitors how to taste the flavors of the land without leaving the city. Order braised, free-range bison back ribs or wild sockeye salmon at the popular Salmon n’ Bannock bistro in Vancouver, or try the fresh bison burger or butternut squash bannock pizza at Feast Café & Bistro in Winnipeg.
Take a guided tour of the Huron Traditional Site on the Huron-Wendat reservation just outside Quebec City, followed by a traditional lunch at the on-site Nek8arre restaurant. Try the wapiti medallions or deer steak.
Book a meal at the iconic Keenawaii’s Kitchen on Haida Gwaii archipelago off the coast of British Columbia, where Chef Roberta Olson serves dishes like dried herring roe on kelp, grain bread with rhubarb relish, and octopus balls.
Trips with Shakat Tun Adventures in Yukon include a meal potlatch-style: a ceremony of sharing, community, and kinship. In the remote Kluane region of the Yukon, snack on traditional dishes as you share stories, song, and dance around a bonfire.
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Learn to make four cents cake, a traditional flat bread, with Eskasoni Cultural Journeys, in the Mi’kmaq community of Eskasoni on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia; it has been a favorite snack for thousands of years.
Munch on muktuk, a traditional Inuit delicacy of frozen whale skin and blubber, and sip a cup of tea made with chips of an iceberg on an Artic Bay Adventures tour. This adventure will take you to the floe edge of the remote Baffin Island in Nunavut.
Watch for the opening of 7th Fire restaurant by Saskatchewan Chef Rich Francis, a Top Chef Canada finalist who is redefining Indigenous cuisine. A member of the Tetlit Gwich’in & Tuscarora Nations, Francis showcases a menu that is a “pre-colonial culinary expression.”
Dine at La Traite restaurant at the upscale Wendake hotel, a short drive from Quebec City, featuring cuisine with ingredients that have been hunted, fished, or gathered locally. Think Western bison tenderloin and Arctic char with red pepper and artichoke tapenade.
Learn about Northern Plains people at Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and sample delicacies such as bison stew and Muskeg tea-battered whitefish and chips at the on-site restaurant.
Feast on traditionally prepared wild salmon at Spirit Bear Lodge in the ancestral lands of the Kitasoo Xai’xais. Orcas and sea lions may even swim by your window while you dine on a 12-foot solid cedar table inside this longhouse-inspired lodge, located in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.
Learn to make bannock over an open fire and sample berries harvested from the lands of Manitoulin Island with the Great Spirit Circle Trail in northeastern Ontario.
Chef Bill Alexander at Grey Eagle Resort & Casino on Tsuut’ina First Nation in Calgary and Chef Shane Chartrand at Sage Restaurant at River Cree Resort & Casino in Edmonton, are two Indigenous chefs bringing new flavor and traditional touch to Alberta casino resort properties. Customized event banquets featuring traditional game foods, local ingredients, and flavors from the land are the resorts of the future.
Other noteworthy sites for Indigenous cuisine:
- Kukum (Toronto)
- NishDish (Toronto)
- Birchwood Coffee (Yellowknife)
- Lelem’ (Fort Langley, BC)
- BisonBerry Restaurant at Neechi Commons (Winnipeg)
- Cookem Daisy’s (Winnipeg)
- Kokom’s Bannock Shack (Dryden, ON)
- Native Delights (Food truck in Edmonton)
- Kekuli Café (2 locations: Merritt & West Bank, BC)
- Thunderbird Café at Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (Whistler, BC)
- Painted Pony Café (Kamloops, BC)
- Big Heart Bannock Cultural Café (Vancouver, BC)