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NEWFOUNDLAND FOODS, CUISINE AND TRADITIONAL DISHES

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Mention Newfoundland food and the first thing that comes to mind is fish. In Canada's easternmost province, fish is synonymous with cod.

Fried cod tongues, salt cod fish cake and carrot salad with horseradish cream. Bacalao restaurant, St. John's.
Fried cod tongues, salt cod fish cake and carrot salad with horseradish cream. Bacalao restaurant, St. John's.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Newfoundlanders have numerous cod recipes. Traditionally, it was dried, salted, smoked, stewed, pan-fried, baked or poached. Cod tongues, which are actually the throat of the fish, are dusted with flour, fried and served with scrunchions (bits of fried pork fat).

Bacalao restaurant

No one makes them better than Bacalao, (address: 65 Lemarchant Rd) in Newfoundland's capital city of St. John's. Specializing in nouvelle Newfoundland cuisine, the restaurant serves the tasty tongues with a crisp, fried coating.

An appetizer combines them with a pan-fried salt cod (bacalao) cake, carrot salad and horseradish cream. In a delicious main dish, pan-seared Fogo Island cod-pot cod, spinach-ricotta gnocchi, cumin-scented parsnips, roasted cauliflower and parsnip chips complement the crispy-skinned pan-seared fish.

Bacalao uses local vegetables and ingredients such as Spyglass Butter, Five Brothers Cheese and Newfoundland Solar Sea Salt in its dishes.

Fish and chips, The Celtic Hearth restaurant
Fish and chips, The Celtic Hearth restaurant
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Fish & chips

All over Newfoundland, there are great debates over which restaurant makes the best fish and chips. Depending on who you talk to, it could be Ches's Famous Fish & Chips in St. John's, Earle's Restaurant in Rocky Harbour or Chafe's Landing in Petty Harbour.

We had great fish & chips at The Celtic Hearth (address: 298-300 Water Street in St. John's). The fresh cod was dipped in a Harp Lager batter and deep-fried until crisp. It was served with a mound of French fries and dishes of tartar sauce and dressing, which tasted like bread stuffing.

Smoked capelin

You'll find lots of other seafood in Newfoundland, as well — bay scallops, blue mussels, cold-water shrimp, snow crab, lobster and capelin. The small smelt-like fish arrive by the thousands at Middle Cove Beach and other coastal areas in late June.

Gerry Strong, from Little Bay Islands NL, loves smoked capelin. "They're really good and not as oily as smoked mackerel. They taste like candy."

Liz Dinn with moose salami and moose bologna
Liz Dinn with moose salami and moose bologna
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Bidgood's Supermarket

You can find Newfoundland seafood, meat and products, either as groceries or packaged to take-out from the deli, at Bidgood's Supermarket in Goulds, southwest of St. John's. We spotted Newfoundland delicacies ranging from turnip greens to frozen rabbit pie.

In addition to dried salt cod, frozen cod tongues and fresh lobster in tanks, Bidgood's carries a variety of Newfoundland meats.

Moose meat

Liz Dinn showed us tubes of moose salami and moose bologna. In the freezer cases, we found frozen extra-lean moose sausages and moose pie, filled with moose meat baked with fatback pork, carrots, turnips, peas and gravy.

On the shelves, we discovered jars of marinated bottled moose, cooked with salt meat and onions, ready to heat and serve.

Jiggs dinner

Big white plastic pails were filled with Old Port cured trimmed navel beef, packaged by Premium Foods. The salt beef is used to make a traditional Newfoundland Jiggs dinner.

After the salt beef has soaked in water for eight to 10 hours, it is drained and boiled with carrots, turnips, potatoes, onions, parsnips, cabbage and dried yellow split peas for three hours. The peas are enclosed in a cotton cloth or cheesecloth bag, so they capture the flavors, but don't mix with the stew.

Joan Harnett holds her fresh-baked flipper pie
Joan Harnett holds her fresh-baked flipper pie
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

If all this seems like too much work, Bidgood's Deli sells plastic take-out containers of Jiggs dinner, complete with the peas pudding.

Flipper pie

We were surprised to see frozen flipper pies in the freezer. We were even more surprised to meet Joan Harnett, the charming lady who made the pies.

Joan uses her mother's recipe for the traditional Newfoundland meal. "We get the seal flipper from local fishermen," she says. "I put it in a pot with baking soda and hot water and soak it for five minutes, repeating the soaking until it's cleaned. To get rid of the oily taste, I boil it for 10 to 15 minutes and pour in cold water to remove the fat."

She then puts the flipper in a roasting pan with fatback pork, onions, salt and pepper and bakes it for three hours. The juice is made into gravy, which is combined with chunks of the flipper, peas, carrots and turnips to make the pastry crust filling.

Although seal flipper tastes like meat (more like liver), Joan explained that her family used to eat it on Good Friday. "My father said that anything born in the ocean is not meat. He called it Sheila's fish, after the wife of St. Patrick."

Fish 'n' brewis

Other groceries in Bidgood's Supermarket were equally intriguing. Plastic bags held Purity hard bread, which is similar to the hard-tack stored in the holds of ships years ago. When soaked in water and cooked with soaked and drained salted cod and fatback pork, it becomes another traditional Newfoundland down-home dish — fish and brewis.

If you don't want to take the time to reconstitute the ingredients, Bidgood's sells the stew in plastic containers.

Jars of Bidgood's whole bakeapples and cloudberry syrup
Jars of Bidgood's whole bakeapples and cloudberry syrup
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Store shelves are also stocked with preserves — onion tomato pickles, whole bakeapples and cloudberry syrup. Bakeapples aren't apples. Nor are they baked. They are delicious apricot-colored berries that taste like peaches and cream.

Partridgeberry pie

Joan Harnett remembers picking bakeapples. "We found them in bogs that were like quicksand, with lots of mosquitoes flying around. We used to pick the berries and sell them to buy school books and clothes."

Bidgood's also sells partridgeberry pie. The tart berries are called mountain cranberries in the United States and ligonberries in Sweden. They are different from crowberries, which aren't made into pies.

Crowberries are not tasty raw, but they are good in what is called blackberry duff, a steamed pudding. (Although crowberries are black, they are not segmented like other blackberries.)

Figgy duff

Another popular Newfoundland dessert is figgy duff, which contains no figs. Duffs are usually served with caramel sauce.

Gourmet artisan chocolate bars, Newfoundland Chocolate Company
Gourmet artisan chocolate bars, Newfoundland Chocolate Company
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

When it comes to cookies, Purity makes the most popular ones, including Lemon Creams and Jam Jams, two spiced cookies, sandwiched together with raspberry jam.

Newfoundland chocolate

Barley toys and peppermint nobs are popular Newfoundland candies. The Newfoundland Chocolate Company (address: 166 Duckworth Street in St. John's) makes addictive chocolates filled with wildberry and screech fillings.

Their chocolate bars are packed in wrappers depicting St. John's jellybean-colored houses. More mouthwatering chocolate is shaped into rosebuds attached to long leafy plastic stems.

When it comes to snacks, one of the most traditional is toutons — fried bread dough, topped with molasses and butter. For fast food, Mary Brown's Chicken & Taters is a popular local chain.

Mallard Cottage restaurant, Quidi Vidi Village, St. John's
Mallard Cottage restaurant, Quidi Vidi Village, St. John's
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Mallard Cottage

Located in Quidi Vidi Village, about a five-minute drive northeast of downtown St. John's, Mallard Cottage (address: 8 Barrows Road) is one of the oldest wooden buildings in North America.

The 18th-century National Historic Site of Canada houses a rustic restaurant, where Chef Todd Perrin prepares Newfoundland meats, seafood and produce with a modern international twist. Moose terrine, anyone? Save room for the cake table.

Newfoundland cookbook

Several cookbooks feature the foods of Newfoundland. Inside St. John's Cabot Tower gift shop, we found one called Fat-Back & Molasses.

This collection of favorite old recipes, such as cod fish cakes, flipper pie and molasses tarts was a great souvenir of our Newfoundland culinary tour.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

City of St. John's

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

More things to see & do in Newfoundland:

Newfoundland Beer, Iceberg Vodka, Screech and Berry Wines

Norstead Newfoundland - How the Vikings Lived and Built Ships

Francois Newfoundland - How to Get There and What to See and Do

Tablelands Hiking Trail - Gros Morne National Park Newfoundland

Adventure Canada Newfoundland Circumnavigation Cruise Expedition