Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Cambridge Bay are your typical entry points into the territory, as the hubs of the Qikiqtani, Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions respectively. Let them also be your entry points to Nunavut’s country foods.
In Iqaluit, it’s fairly easy to try out local favourites. Both the Discovery Inn and Frobisher Inn restaurants serve up sophisticated takes on Arctic char, caribou, muskox and seal, depending on availability. And in Cambridge Bay, a new restaurant—Saxifrage Resto Café—has a succulent muskox burger on the menu.
But in Rankin Inlet, it’s a little trickier. Kelly Lindell ran a catering business out of the rec centre concession until last fall. Though the remaining dining venues in town don’t often feature country foods on the menu, you can still find them with a little digging. Try the Rankin Inlet Sell and Swap page. “For country cuisine, I know people sell maktaaq salad all the time,” she says. Just make sure you have cash with you.
Try the Rankin Inlet Sell and Swap page. “For country cuisine, I know people sell maktaaq salad all the time.” - Kelly Lindell
For the road
Now that you’ve acquired a taste for country food, here’s where you can buy it
To get your fix in Iqaluit, head down to Nunavut Country Food, where Joe Hess sells beluga and narwhal mataaq, smoked Arctic char and full fish, caribou hearts, legs and steaks and seal. In Rankin Inlet, go to the Ivalu gift shop for umingmak (muskox) products, caribou, mikku (dry caribou), maktaaq when in season and all manner of Arctic char like pipsi (dried char), jerky, and fillets. (Or go to Kivalliq Arctic Foods in Rankin Inlet to buy in bulk.) In Cambridge Bay, Kitikmeot Foods sells muskox and Arctic char—full fish, fillets, candied and jerky. Co-op and Northern/NorthMart stores across Nunavut usually have a more limited selection of country foods.
So you’ve got your Arctic char. How do you get it home?
Cambridge Bay’s fish plant, Kitikmeot Foods, is the place to go if you want fresh, local Arctic char. There are two seasonal char runs: when the fish swim from the lakes into the ocean, and then from the ocean back into the lakes. When it’s out of season, the fish will be frozen.
To keep char from thawing—below -18C—pack them in a cooler with ice. No cooler? They’ll come from the plant wrapped in plastic. Add layers of newspaper and more plastic to further insulate the char.
Travelling to: Edmonton
Flight time: 5 hours
How’s your char?: It’ll stay frozen for 3 to 6 hours without a cooler. The tail might start to soften, though.
Travelling to: Vancouver
Flight time: 7 hours
How's your char?: That thaw is starting.
Travelling to: Toronto
Flight time: 13 hours
How's your char?: You’re well into the thaw now. If the body is still cool to the touch, your char is fine to eat.