Native American cuisine is, literally, the oldest cuisine in American food history. It is also one of the most nature-oriented, allowing cooks the opportunity to experiment with a myriad of new ingredients, many easily foraged directly from their environment. After decades of sparse recognition, this hidden jewel is finally resurfacing in mainstream American restaurants and recipes. Today’s popular restaurants are now utilizing this knowledge in the creation and confection of amazing dishes, made with all-natural ingredients, the traditional way.
For your own Native American cooking experience, you need to get the basics from the Western Native American cuisine
2. squash and its relatives (spaghetti, butternut, pumpkins)
3. white and blue corn (and hominy)
5. game meats, such as rabbit or bison
6. cactus plants and seeds
7. cooked acorns
Not sure where to get them?
Check websites that grow, source, and deliver organic farm produce to make culinary, health, and beauty products. Some examples of these companies include produce delivery service Farmbox direct, and health and beauty product company Kyani. These companies believe in the same principle of Native American cuisine communities: source from the immediate environment and let nature thrive!
Where are the Best Restaurants?
Pre-European (pre-Columbian) Foods
Pueblo Harvest Café in Alburqueque NM, is one of the longest running restaurants ran by Native American communities. It is located in the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and has been in operation since 1976. Pueblo and similar restaurants also offer pre-European menus, particularly for the colder, winter season. One of such recipes is the Hazryquive stew. This broth-based meal also calls for white hominy, game meat, wild rice, and Hopi piki bread, made with blue corn. Check out their menu and see the ingredients used in each recipe. Maybe you can make some of them on your own!
Post-colonial Native American food entails a fusion of traditional ingredients with modern dishes. An example of this would be the bison burger, the use of blue corn to make tortilla chips, and the infusion of cactus plants, fried bread, hominy, and foods sourced exclusively from Native American farming communities into traditional recipes.
KAI is based in Phoenix, Arizona and is one of the few restaurants offering traditional Native meals to their menu as part of their seasonal promotions. A very salient dish in their menu is the Ha:l. This smoked squash puree includes “O’othham Gourds, Sweet Arizona Buttermilk, Agave Cotton”. The restaurant also offers main dishes such as grouper cheeks, accompanied with a petite cabbage slaw and desert cactus seeds
Knowing what ingredients go in a traditional Native dish opens the door to a plethora of new opportunities to experience foods and recipes made with healthy, fresh, and natural produce straight from our own backyards!