A tour of Rooted: Dining Commons’ inventive Indigenous food menu

A review of new dishes

A piece of toasty bannock topped with lettuce, black beans, corn, and spicy mayo. Closer to the camera is a mahogany-coloured chicken drumstick and a serving of pasta in a red sauce with ground bison.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Izzy Cheung / The Peak

By: Izzy Cheung, Arts & Culture Editor

For National Indigenous Peoples’ Day on June 21, SFU Dining Commons put the spotlight on Rooted. This menu, which is available in rotation all year long,  puts out delicious, Indigenous-inspired dishes created by Teetl’it Gwich’in chef Steph Baryluk. Following its debut last year, the program has continued to release mouthwatering renditions of pasta, tacos, and desserts, seven of which I had the pleasure of trying. 

Here’s a tour of these dishes rooted in Indigenous ingredients and inspiration.

Duck taco with charred corn salsa 

The dats’an (Teetl’it Gwich’in word for duck) tacos were the perfect mix of creamy, salty, and crisp. Small pieces of crusted duck with a salty umami flavour were placed on top of small beds of crunchy lettuce. A light layer of spicy mayo on top gave these little delicacies an added element of creaminess that completed the meal. 

Three sisters soup 

“The story of the three sisters (corn, squash, beans) is one of helping each other and protecting each other during growth,” chef Baryluk said in a statement. These three sisters refer to three plants that grow together when planted side by side. This dish, combining a medley of hearty vegetables, had a slight spice to the broth that would be perfect to indulge in during the snowy winter. 

Habanero candied salmon salad 

Salmon is important to Indigenous cultures as it is said to “give you positive energy and strength when consumed.” This candied salmon certainly fulfilled that promise, as it was by far the star of this dish. Sitting atop a bed of lively greens, the tuk (Teetl’it Gwich’in term for fish) was the perfect balance of salty and sweet. There was a tinge of spice to the sauce that hovered, not wanting to strike the taste buds right away. However, when it did hit, it wasn’t overpowering at all. 

“The fluffy bannock was the perfect base for the fresh, slightly spiced, and nutty taste profile delivered by this dish.”

Bison dhandaii nilii pasta and juniper berry rubbed chicken with blackberry BBQ sauce 

The Teetl’it Gwich’in phrase “dhandaii” is “tastes good” and “nilii” means “meat.” After having a bite of this dish, I definitely agree with its name. The bison meat gave the sauce a needed level of depth that reminded me of Italian bolognese with a slightly meatier flavour. On the same plate, I grabbed a piece of the tsiivii ch’ok (Teetl’it Gwich’in word for juniper berry) rubbed chicken, which had a surface-level sweetness to it that enhanced the flavour of the chicken itself.  

Bannock taco 

Tuhch’uh, which is the Teetl’it Gwich’in word for bannock, is a versatile staple that can take any taste profile that you’d like it to depending on what you top it with. A doughy, bread-like item, bannock is part of many Indigenous cuisines around Turtle Island. Rooted debuted their bannock taco on June 21 — it was stuffed with a light succotash and topped with hot sauce from Indigenous brand Sriracha Revolver. The fluffy bannock was the perfect base for the fresh, slightly spiced, and nutty taste profile delivered by this dish. 

Smoked juniper cherry jam cheesecake mousse 

This delicious dish was the perfect dessert to end off a spread of sumptuous goods. With a rich, panna cotta-like cream and tangy cherry jam from Tradish, this dessert was the perfect mix of sweet and slightly sour. Juniper berries have long been used “for ceremonial, medicinal, and culinary purposes” by Indigenous Peoples. While this tangy-yet-creamy dish tastes delicious, the ingredients used in this jam also help with “chest congestion, sore throat, cough, and mucus build up” — talk about a healthy dessert! 

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