Indian tacos

Indian taco

Indian taco flat on a plate – to eat, bend in half and eat like a Mexican taco.

I always feel weird saying “Indian tacos” since they’re not at all Indian in the subcontinental sense and not really tacos in the Mexican sense. Also, I feel uncomfortable using “Indian” to refer to the First Nations of North America. But nobody says “First Nations tacos.” The Aboriginal friends I had growing up on the prairies in Canada would have laughed at me if I’d tried. Indian tacos are Indian tacos and they’re as authentically First Nations as Irish stew is Irish (despite the fact potatoes are native to South America) and as vindaloo is Indian (even though chilies too are from the New World).

What makes an Indian taco “Indian” is that, instead of a corn tortilla, it uses fried bannock, AKA fry bread. As to the rest, it usually contains meat, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. Sour cream is optional. Salsa is optional. If you want to make it even more North American Aboriginal, you can use ground bison. I, however, didn’t have any, so I used ground beef, which is, I would guess, the most common filling in Indian tacos anyway.

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Gluten-free bannock (fry bread)

Gluten-free bannockNo taste takes me back to childhood summers on the Canadian prairies like bannock. Bannock, for those not in the know, is a bread so simple, it can be made while camping. It doesn’t require much more than flour and water and can look like a big round loaf, like scones, or like pancakes. It can even be wrapped around sticks and toasted in the flames.

Although for me the classic bannock is scone-like and made in a skillet outdoors, another, slightly more decadent treat is fry bread. That’s the name for bannock that’s made big and flat and deep-fried. I used to always get it at the Aboriginal tent at Edmonton’s Heritage Festival, sometimes plain and sometimes in the form of Indian tacos. I hadn’t tried to make bannock since I went gluten-free, but bannock is so easy, it turned out fantastic even when switching flours and shallow-pan frying rather than deep frying.  Continue reading