From salmon to Saskatoon berries, Aboriginal exhibitors showcased traditional cuisine with a modern influence at the second annual EAT! Vancouver show. The show, held at BC Place from April 23 to 25, gave food lovers a chance to check out new products and services, see celebrity chefs in action, and eat.
Simptew Smoked Salmon was pleased to be attending EAT!, the company's first major food expo. Located on the Nanoose reserve north of Nanaimo, Simptew owners Randy and Edith Fred were eager to show, sell, and provide samples of smoked salmon. The booth was bustling as the Freds and their assistants offered nearly 10,000 samples over the three-day event.
Edith Fred (Nuu-chah-nulth) has been making traditional "half-smoked" salmon, along with cold- and hot-smoked, for more than 20 years. She learned the techniques from her family, and has adapted them over time to create her own recipes. She also makes lox, and several types of salmon jerky or "upskwee," experimenting with flavours like jalapeno-maple and honey chili garlic. Simptew offers a variety of wild salmons, but Edith notes that most of her customers request the premium hot-smoked sockeye.
The word "simptew" is a Nuu-chah-nulth word referring to a type of smoked salmon that retains the skin, and is cut and processed differently. This time-consuming traditional method results in a unique taste and texture, and the Freds plan to add simptew to their future product line.
In the summer months, Simptew's new concession cart will cater to salmon lovers in Port Alberni. Custom orders will keep Simptew smoking too, as thousands of avid fishermen passing through the popular tourist area will be able to have their catches smoked to order. "The advantage of being small is that we're able to work quickly," said Randy Fred. He added that greater distribution plans for the Lower Mainland are in the works, as well as a Web site, but in the meantime, Simptew products are available within B.C. by mail order.
"We plan to start small and build on our successes," he said.
Not far from the Simptew booth, another crowd gathers around a giant tipi in the "Bite of Vancouver" area as Ben Genaille served up plates of salmon in dill fritter batter, bannock, and Saskatoon berry smoothies.
After teaching Native cooking at the Musqueam Culinary Training Centre for the past seven years, Genaille is on the cusp of opening Canoe, his new Vancouver restaurant. The location as yet undisclosed, Canoe will seat 150 patrons and offer both casual and fine dining in First Nations culinary traditions. "Most people can name only a few First Nations foods," says Genaille, "and I want to change that. After all, food is culture."