Note: Thanks to Ambassador and new North Dakota Department of Commerce Marketing Intern Stacey Loula for sharing her thoughts as a student-transplant to North Dakota. She truly is a “city-slicker,” born and raised, as she grew up in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. She is currently a senior at the University of Mary, majoring in Business Communication with a minor in Public Relations.
North Dakota is home to many different cultures, Native Americans, Germans, Scandinavian’s, and Norwegian’s which have all brought with them their unique tastes and foods. As a native of Minnesota, I have found that there are many different foods that I have never had or heard of before moving to North Dakota. Although I have not experienced all of them quite yet, I would like to share with you some of the different tastes and foods that North Dakota has to offer.
Native American/Western Grub
- Nue’ta Corn Festival, held in Mandan in August
- Mid-Winter Pow-Wow, which takes place on the day of New Year’s Eve in New Town
- Twin Buttes Pow-Wow, in June
- United Tribes International Pow-Wow, held in Bismarck in September
Many German/Russian traditional foods remain popular in the state, particularly Knoepfla soup, Fleischküchle, and Kuchen. Knoeplfa soup is true comfort food, mixing dumplings and potatoes in a creamy chicken broth, it is unlike any other soup you could have. Fleischküchle is a savory, deep-fried turnover which can contain a variety of fillings, but the most common is seasoned ground beef. For dessert, Kuchen is the hands-down favorite. Kuchen, as the German-Russians prepare it, has a cake-like crust with a custard filling, which often includes fruit.
You can find German-Russian dishes at numerous local restaurants:
- The city of Beulah is noted for their Fleischkuchle, which you’ll find not only at restaurants, but fairs, festivals, a few roadside stands, and even the Dairy Queen.
- Kroll’s Kitchen restaurant chain in Fargo and Bismarck to be the best place for Knoepfla soup, as well as other German-Russian dishes.
- New Leipzig, Leipziger Hof Restaurant is a popular gathering place to enjoy dishes like schnitzel (deep-fried, breaded meat, usually veal) and Russian-style borscht (soup made with cabbage, and often beets).
- Wishek, which calls itself the “Sauerkraut Capital of the World.” Nothing beats it!
What other German-Russian foods might you encounter in North Dakota? Sausages, spaetzle (tiny dumplings), strudel (flaky pastry with either savory or sweet fillings), and pierogies (baked or fried half-moon dumplings, which also contain either savory or sweet fillings, especially mashed potatoes or cheese). If you like pickles and happen upon German-Russian watermelon pickles, you may want to give them a try. Dill and red-hot peppers added to the brine give these watermelon pickles a nice kick.
Among the most common Norwegian dishes are lutefisk and lefse. Lutefisk is cod which has been preserved by soaking it in lye. Lutefisk is slimy and slippery; it just slides right on down your throat (gross). It’s most definitely not my most favorite thing to eat, but who knows maybe it will be yours. It’s a love, hate thing; people generally either love it or hate it. In either case, it’s considered an acquired taste, so lutefisk may be best left to those with a more adventurous palate. On the other hand, lefse will appeal to just about anyone. This delicious thin, flat potato bread is most often served rolled up with either butter, sugar, cinnamon, or brown sugar. I like mine sometimes with just butter and other times with just brown sugar or a mix of butter, sugar, and cinnamon, but it can also be rolled around fillings, as you would use a tortilla. Lefse is one of my favorites and has been a tradition in my family for centuries; my mom makes batches upon batches every Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nothing beats homemade fresh lefse, but buying it from a grocery store is an alternative to making it from scratch.
- The official state fruit, the chokecherry, adds a flavorful touch to a number of food items. For instance, there’s chokecherry butter, similar to apple butter. Chokecherries are also used in jellies, fudge, barbecue sauce, and more.
With North Dakota’s vast, unspoiled lands and its lakes and rivers, hunting and fishing are popular pastimes. Local fish you may catch or find at a local restaurant include:
Northern Pike, Walleye, Bass, Perch, Trout, Catfish and Chinook Salmon.
Among wild game there is:
Ducks, geese, pheasants, grouse, partridge, wild turkey, deer, elk, moose, antelope and bighorn sheep.
In addition, North Dakota boasts a few wineries, all of which offer tours and tastings.
- For a number of grape wines like Merlot and Riesling, the main establishment is Red Trail Vineyards in Buffalo.
- Dakota Hills Winery in Knox produces a few grape wines, though most of their wines are native fruit wines and honey wines.
- Maple River Winery in Casselton and Point of View Winery in Burlington produce only non-grape wines, mainly fruit and honey wines. Fruit wines you’ll find include chokecherry, crab apple, wild plum, elderberry, apple, raspberry, and many more. Rhubarb wine is another variety, and Maple River also makes dandelion and pumpkin wines.
You may not find these wines outside of North Dakota, so if you love wine, stopping by a winery would be a fun and tasty adventure.
In the Peace Garden State, there are plenty of food options to choose from. Trying some of the state’s local cuisine, whether buffalo, kuchen, lefse, or chokecherry jelly, you can’t go wrong and it will give you a real taste of North Dakota and our land of many cultures.