Tacos made from freshly baked bannock are hot sellers at Indigenous pow wows. Chef Shawn Adler, owner of the Pow Wow Cafe in Toronto, explains every cook makes them differently as is the case with regular tacos. His signature style: a tomato-beef mixture with jalapeños spooned onto bannock. Here chili sauce subs beautifully as the unifying tomato sauce, and corn, one of the three sister crops extremely important to Indigenous cuisine, is also added. In some places, the term bannock and fry bread are used interchangeably. The original bannock was baked like a scone, but the ideal pow wow taco base for Adler is Ojibwe-style fry bread, golden crispy on the outside and tender and chewy on the inside.
1 tbsp (15 mL) canola or sunflower oil
1 lb (500 g) Lean Ground Beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1 to 2 tbsp (15 to 30 mL) finely chopped seeded jalapeños
⅓ cup (75 mL) chili sauce (approx)
½ cup (125 mL) corn kernels, frozen or canned
4 cups (1 L) all-purpose flour (approx)
4 tsp (20 mL) baking powder
1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
¼ cup (60 mL) cold butter, lard or shortening, cut into cubes
1½ cups (375 mL) milk (approx)
Canola or sunflower oil for frying
Shredded lettuce or arugula, shredded cheese and sour cream
1. Beef Filling: Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add beef, onion and jalapeños to taste and cook, stirring often and using back of spoon to break up meat into small chunks 8 to 10 minutes, until beef is browned. Drain, if necessary. Stir in chili sauce. Taste and add more, if needed. Stir in corn and cook, stirring, until hot. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. (Filling can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated up to 2 days. Reheat until bubbling before serving.)
2. Bannock: Meanwhile, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl with a fork. Add butter and rub mixture between your hands to evenly distribute. Make a well in the center and add milk. Stir with fork until ingredients come together and form a slightly sticky dough. If necessary, stir in a little more milk or sprinkle in a little more flour.
3. Knead once or twice with floured hands, then gather dough into a ball and place on a well-floured board. Knead gently about 10 times, then form into a log about 3 inches (7.5 cm) wide. Cut into 8 pieces and move to the side of the board or a plate.
4. Place one piece of dough in the center of the board and cover remaining pieces to keep from drying out. Roll out dough to form an oval disk, about 8 by 5 inches (20 x 12.5 cm). Cover to keep from drying out.
5. Pour enough oil into a wok or deep skillet to fill 2 inches (5 cm) deep. Heat over medium-high heat until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 15 seconds.
6. Carefully slide one disk of dough into the hot oil. Cook for about 2 minutes or until edges turn brown. Flip over and fry until golden. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Repeat with remaining dough pieces, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain temperature.
7. Spoon hot Beef Filling atop warm Bannock and top with desired toppings.
Tips: The Bannock can be made ahead and stored at room temperature in a paper towel-lined airtight container for up to 1 day. Warm in a preheated 350°F oven for about 5 minutes before serving.