A new food guide combines recipes from British Columbia’s immigrant communities with local seafood options to teach new Canadians how to incorporate B.C. fish into a healthy diet.
“You have chefs from all over the world, and then you make them cook this local product,” says Siddharth Choudhary, the executive chef of Siddhartha’s Kitchen, a Vancouver restaurant that specializes in Indian food. “So people will be able to make dishes with ingredients they can find in any grocery store. It’s kind of a nice mix.”
A recent survey commissioned by Vancouver settlement organization MOSAIC, the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association and local newspaper, The Province, found out that although immigrants tend to generally eat the suggested amount of meat, fish and alternatives by the Canada Food Guide, they are less aware of how to ensure ‘healthy-heart’ diets.
This type of diet keeps cholesterol low, prevents heart disease and includes foods high in Omega-3 acids like salmon and other types of local B.C. fish.
[I]mmigrants often don’t know how to incorporate salmon into their diets.
According to Jeremy Dunn, the executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, this could be because immigrants often don’t know how to incorporate salmon into their diets.
“One thing we hear a fair bit from people with respect to salmon, especially with respect to making it at home, is that either they don’t know how to cook it, or they don’t know more than one way to cook it,” he says. “And so it gets boring.”
In order to address this, MOSAIC and the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association recruited chefs from different backgrounds in order to produce the Eating Resource Guide, titled A Mosaic of Flavours, comprised of six recipes by six different chefs.
The guide showcases different ways to cook meals that utilize B.C.’s local fish and seafood. Of the six recipes presented in the guide, four have salmon as a main ingredient. ‘Indian Baked Salmon‘ and ‘Salmon Chinese Way‘ are two examples.
Guide a nod to B.C.’s multiculturalism
“Apart from the nutrition factor, the guide gives you different types of recipes. It gives you a little bit of Korean, of continental, of Indian, and more,” says Choudhary.
For the chef, the fact that the guide mixes local and international ingredients and spices showcases the multicultural nature of B.C., a province in which visible minorities represent just over 25 per cent of the population.
[T]he guide mixes local and international ingredients and spices …
Moreover, Choudhary says the guide also highlights the stories of the chefs who come from a variety of ethno-cultural backgrounds.
“By reading the guide, you can learn about these chefs coming from different countries who are working very hard in order to be successful,” he says. “I think it sets an example.”
For Choudhary, being fluent in English and spending almost a decade working in Europe and Asia didn’t relieve him from the struggles many immigrants face when they settle in a new country.
Choudhary moved to Canada with his family seven years ago and a year after settling in Vancouver, he opened Siddhartha’s Kitchen.
“When I first arrived, I was very confused about what to do and how to do it,” he shares.
At the time, Choudhary wasn’t aware of the existence of immigrant settlement agencies. After learning about the services these organizations provide to newcomers, he became eager to help.
“We want to create awareness amongst newcomers on the relationship between healthy eating and heart disease.”
His opportunity arrived last month, when he learned that MOSAIC was looking for chefs to compile a healthy eating guide.
“I thought it would be a great idea to come up with a new recipe,” Choudhary says. “I wanted to incorporate my skills, to [do] whatever I could to contribute with MOSAIC.”
Healthy diet is not enough
The purpose of the guide is not only to provide newcomers with ideas on how to incorporate more seafood into their diets, but also to start a conversation about the benefits of eating healthy.
“We want to create awareness amongst newcomers on the relationship between healthy eating and heart disease,” says Ninu Kang, MOSAIC’s director of communications and development. “Our focus with this guide is to have newcomers start to think about their diets, and to create awareness about the different healthy foods that are available.”
The Heart and Stroke Foundation reports that 600,000 Canadians are living with heart failure. A 2015 study found that some aspects of Western culture, like fast food and cigarettes, can contribute to declining heart health among immigrants when they arrive in Canada.
According to the same study, immigrants from South Asia had the highest rates of heart problems.
Dr. Manjeet Mann, a cardiologist based in Victoria, B.C., says eating oily fishes like salmon at least once a week is a good start towards a healthier lifestyle, but he warns that it is not enough. He recommends also discussing food choices with a dietitian and doing moderate exercise daily.
“A guide is only useful if it can be applied to your day-to-day practice, and I find that without dietitian consultation, it tends to be very generic,” he says.