What do Canadians eat?

CBC D is for Dinner Challenge . “Canada Bowl with Good Morels” by Chef Caroline Ishii

Alan Neal with CBC Radio asked if I would be up for a chef challenge on his All in a Day “D is for Dinner” show on June 28. The challenge would be announced a few days before on Saturday, June 24. I said “yes!” because I love Alan’s show, the CBC, and I am a curious soul.

It was a pre-Canada Day D is For Dinner challenge. They divided the country up among three chefs. They randomly gave us one-third of the country (well, one got 5 areas (me!) and the other two got four). He asked us to create a recipe that combines local ingredients from our provinces and territories. Mine were: Alberta; New Brunswick; Ontario; Saskatchewan, and the Yukon. We were asked to send in a photo and recipe by Tuesday and come to the CBC studio with our creation on Wednesday.

The challenge provided me the opportunity to reflect on what is Canadian cuisine?

Is it poutine, maple syrup, and bacon? Yes it is but it is also much more than this.

I was embarrassed that I didn’t know much at first about my provinces and territories except the stereotypes like beef for Alberta. This is fine, it’s like saying sushi for Japan. It’s not wrong but there is so much more at the heart of the food in Alberta and not everyone eats meat.

I wanted my dish to represent Canada and what it stands for, in particular inclusion, diversity and multiculturalism.

I visited the local farmers markets and stores. I reached out on social media and to friends asking what the main local ingredients are in their provinces and territories I was responsible for. I did extensive internet research and soul searching about what is Canadian cuisine for me.

I believe Canadian cuisine is influenced by: the indigenous peoples; British roots; a vibrant Quebecois/French Canadian culture, and strong immigration patterns, which included my grandfather from Japan over 100 years ago.

It is a collage of dishes from the cuisines of other cultures. Not a melting pot, but sometimes referred to as a smorgasbord or buffet. I call it a Korean bibimbap, one of my favourite foods, which has many different components, each separate, but when combined together to be eaten is delicious.

I also feel that our love of the great outdoors, whether cooking food over an open camp fire, inviting friends to a BBQ, or bringing a picnic to share, influences what and how we cook and eat.

Here’s the description of the dish I sent to the CBC on Tuesday.

Description: Inspired by my Japanese ancestry and the diversity of Canada, local ingredients from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Yukon, combined in one bowl. In keeping with inclusion and local, the dish and recipes are vegan and mostly gluten-free, except the dumplings, and most ingredients are from local suppliers and farmers.

Dish: Alberta rye whiskey-miso-rhubarb strawberry glazed La Soyerie tofu skewers. Saskatchewan wild rice pilaf with Yukon morel mushrooms. Ontario beet root to shoot and garlic scapes. New Brunswick dulse-flax-hemp furikake (rice seasoning). Kimchi pierogi, inspired by our love of pierogies and the world’s largest perogi statue in Glendon, Alberta. Ottawa microgreens.

On Wednesday, I brought in my Canadian dish to the CBC studio as did the other two chefs. We spoke to Alan about our dishes, which together represented Canada, rich, diverse and vibrant.

CBC Radio Ohh Canada D is for Dinner Challenge

Food always brings us together, for this challenge and in our day to day lives, whether at the dinner table with family, around a camp fire toasting marshmallows, or checking out a new local restaurant with friends.

With our 150th birthday on July 1, it’s a good time for Canadians to reflect on these questions that are not easy to answer such as what is Canadian culture and cuisine? Sometimes our answers can’t be given in a few words and are complex. I take this as a good thing. We have so much to say and be grateful for!

I’ve heard lately in different world discussions and I’m proud to hear, “the world needs more Canada!”

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Canada!

Here are the recipes for my dish, also on the CBC Radio web site:


1 package firm tofu (La Soyerie, National Capital Region)

3 tablespoons dark miso (Tradition Miso from Claremont, Ontario)

2 tablespoons Alberta Rye Whiskey

2 tablespoons or more Ontario maple syrup to taste

2 tablespoons ginger

1 cup Ontario rhubarb strawberry compote (recipe below)

Combine ingredients in a pot, heat to boiling point and reduce to simmer for 5–10 minutes.

Drain the tofu. Wipe dry and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Glaze the tofu with the sauce and place on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350 degrees F oven for about 30 minutes.


2 cups diced strawberries

2 cups diced rhubarb stalks, leaves removed

1 apple, peeled and diced

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/3 to 1/2 cup organic sugar, adjust based on your preference

1/8 to ¼ cup water

Combine the strawberries, rhubarb, apple, lemon juice, sugar and water in a sauce pan. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 30–45 minutes, stirring occasionally.


1/2 cup wild rice

1/2 cup brown rice

1 ¾ cup water or stock

In a pot, bring water and rice to a boil. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Mix the cooked beet greens, garlic scapes and morels (recipes follow) into the rice.

Beet greens and garlic scapes

Chop the garlic scapes into small pieces. Cut away the beets from the tops and set aside. Chop the beet greens. Heat oil in pan. Add the garlic scapes and beet greens. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes and set aside.

Yukon morels

Trim the ends of the morels and cut in half. Put the morels in a bowl of cold water and swish them around to remove any grit. Lift the morels out of the water and pat them dry. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add oil. Add the morels. Cook for about 5–10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted beets

8 beets, scrubbed and dried

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Coat beets lightly with balsamic vinegar. Wrap beets in foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in a 375 degrees F oven until cooked through, approximately 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, peel and slice.


Dried dulse

Flax seeds

Hemp seeds

Toast dulse in a dry skillet over low heat until crisp. Cool. Grind dulse, flax seeds and hemp seeds, in equal parts, in a blender or with a mortar and pestle until everything is lightly ground.


1 jar kimchi, drained and chopped into smaller pieces

1 package dumpling wrappers (round shape)

Place about a teaspoon of the kimchi in the centre of each dumpling skin. Dab a little water around the edge of the skin. Fold over the skin to make a half-moon shape and use the thumb and index finger of one hand to press edges together firmly to make a tight seal. In a large pot, heat water until there is a gentle boil. Add dumplings, and when they pop to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon.

Originally published at Caroline Ishii.