Cook this: Nirjutit Sea Turbot Tacos

Turbot is Nate Jewett and Zipporah Ungalaq’s fish of choice for these tacos, but cod or whitefish would make great substitutes

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Our cookbook of the week is Nirjutit Imaani: Edible Animals of the Sea by Nunavut Arctic College Media, with a foreword by Iqaluit chef Sheila Flaherty. Over the next three days, we’ll feature more recipes from the book and an interview with Flaherty.

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At Sedna’s Lair and Nanook Express Food Truck in Iqaluit, Nate Jewett and Zipporah Ungalaq specialize in traditional food from across Nunavut. The partners are among more than 40 contributors from all three regions of Nunavut (Qikiqtaaluk, Kivalliq and Kitikmeot) who have provided fish and seal recipes to Nirjutit Immana cookbook in English and the Inuktut dialect.

Tender and flavorful turbot (aka Greenland halibut) — a deep-sea flatfish abundant in Arctic waters, especially east of Baffin Island — is Jewett and Ungalaq’s go-to topping for their tacos. (They also contributed their marinated seal sandwich recipe to the book.)

Turbot is a delicious fish, says Iqaluit chef Sheila Flaherty, who wrote At Nirjutit Imaani foreword. She first prepared it in 2017, right after it appeared on MasterChef Canada. The Government of Nunavut’s Department of Environment had invited her to prepare turbot from an experimental fishery in Pond Inlet, in northern Baffin Island.

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Removing the skin was “a son of a gun,” Flaherty recalled. Until she stumbles upon something, which makes things much easier. With the flesh of the fish down, pour boiling water over the skin. The fish will roll up slightly, she explains — but won’t cook — and the skin will come off easily.

Since that first meal, which earned him rave reviews, turbot has become one of Flaherty’s favorites. “I like to present it whenever I can get my hands on it,” she says.

Dine Out Vancouver Festival’s World Chef Exchange on January 30 presented such an opportunity. As part of a four-course meal made with Inuit ingredients, Flaherty’s main course was parmesan cheese, lemon zest and caper-crusted Nunavut turbot. The baked fish was preceded by grilled allannguaq mattaaq (narwhal skin) and ammuumajut (arctic clams) that she and her husband Jaani had harvested. After the turbot, she served a cheesecake with aqpik (blackberries) that she and Jaani had picked.

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“I love turbot,” says Flaherty. “It’s a new type of fishing compared to Arctic char. And because of that, when I’m asked to be a chef at an event down south, I like to put it on my menus.

Nirjutit of the Sea: Edible Animals of the Sea
Nirjutit Imaani: Edible Animals of the Sea, published by Nunavut Arctic College Media, has been shortlisted for a Gourmand World Cookbook Award in the Arctic and Fish categories. Photo by Nunavut Arctic College Media


Recipe by Nate Jewett and Zipporah Ungalaq, founders of Sedna’s Lair in Iqaluit

Spice Rub:
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 lb (1 kg) turbot fillets (see note)

To beat:
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 egg
1 cup sparkling water
1 to 2 cups canola or vegetable oil, for frying

To serve:
12 to 16 tortilla shells, soft or hard
Pickled onions (recipe follows)
White Taco Sauce (recipe follows)
1 cup thinly sliced ​​purple or green cabbage
2 avocados, pitted and sliced, then sprinkled with lime juice (optional)

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Step 1

In a small bowl, combine the paprika, garlic powder, oregano, onion powder, cumin, salt, brown sugar and cayenne pepper using a spoon.

2nd step

Rinse and pat the turbot fillets dry with paper towel. Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over both sides of the fillets and rub it into the flesh with your fingers. You want a thin, even layer – it’s okay if there’s a little spice blend left. Put the fish on a plate, cover with cling film and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Step 3

Remove the fish from the refrigerator and cut the fillets into 1-inch strips. If the strips are long enough, cut them in half. This will make them easier to handle in batter and a better size for tacos.

Step 4

Cover a plate with paper towel and set aside. Just before you are ready to fry the fish, prepare the batter. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt well. Crack the egg into a small bowl and beat until the white and yolk are completely combined. Add the egg and sparkling water to the flour mixture and stir until the ingredients are just combined.

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Step 5

Pour 1/2 inch of oil into a large frying pan and place over medium heat – after 1 or 2 minutes, place a small spoonful of batter in the oil to test if it is hot enough. If the dough immediately swells and there are bubbles around its edges, the oil is ready.

Step 6

Working with two to three pieces at a time, place the fish pieces into the batter. Remove them one at a time with tongs or a fork, shaking them to remove the excess batter. Carefully place them in the hot oil; flip them after about 1-2 minutes, or when the crust is golden brown. Once the other side is also browned, use a slotted spoon, metal spatula, or tongs to remove the fish pieces from the pan and place them on the prepared plate with paper towel. Repeat until all the fish is fried, adding more oil to the pan if it gets less than 1/2 inch.

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Step 7

As soon as all the fish is cooked, serve the tacos on the tortillas with the pickled onions, white taco sauce, cabbage, avocado and any other condiments or toppings you desire.

Serves: 4

To note: Cod and whitefish work well too.


1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp lime juice

Step 1

Toss the onion slices with the lime juice, stir and set aside.


1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce of any type
1 tbsp lime juice

Step 1

Combine mayonnaise, hot sauce and lime juice in a small bowl. Put aside.

Recipes and image taken from Nirjutit Imaani: Edible Animals of the Sea published by Nunavut Arctic College Media. Text Copyright © 2021 Nunavut Arctic College Media. Reproduced by agreement with the publisher. All rights reserved.


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