By KRISTEN MURPHY
“It’s like a meat truffle,” I say to my friend after biting into the rich, musk-ox gyoza. She agrees between bites of the exotic and delicious dish at Thornton’s Wine & Tapas Room in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
Each Japanese-inspired dumpling is seasoned with ginger, green onion and a splash of sake. The tender morsel is covered in a won ton wrap, which is lightly pan-fried, creating a pleasant contrast between the golden shell and the soft dumpling.
We pair the gyoza with an Italian Valpolicella wine, but a California Zinfandel would be equally delightful.
Thousands of miles north of Yellowknife, on Banks Island (one of the islands bordering the Northwest Passage) in the Arctic, is where the musk ox roam. Every March several hundred are harvested and butchered. But it’s not just their meat that’s in demand. It is also the qiviut, the soft undercoat of the prehistoric-looking animal, which is spun into wool that is warmer and more expensive than cashmere.
It’s harder than you might think to find wild meat on menus in Yellowknife. It’s increasingly rare due to hunting restrictions. Most commonly found is Great Slave whitefish, pickerel, arctic char and buffalo steaks from Northern Alberta.
Thorton’s is one of the few fine dining establishments in town that serves musk ox. Le Frolic has a wild meat fondu but the deer and ostrich are not local.
A more casual but colourful dining experience, Bullocks Bistro (3534 Weaver Dr.; 867-873-3474) in the city’s historic Old Town offers locally caught fish, which is the special of the day, every day. Bullocks is a cozy trapper’s cabin where not only is it okay to autograph the walls, it is encouraged. You might find caribou or musk ox on offer here, depending on the day.
But if you crave something more exotic like moose, muk tuk (whale blubber) or ptarmigan you’re probably out of luck—unless you befriend a local hunter or book your own dedicated hunting vacation.
Kirsten Murphy is a writer and photographer who lives in Yellowknife, NT.