South Dakota Cuisine
South Dakota cuisine is a mixture of traditional native foods and settlers' imports. Corn, beans, squash, and game such as venison, trout, and walleye are prepared using simple, hearty northern European recipes. Walleye, for example, is an extremely popular meal baked with salt, pepper, and lemon, and served with plenty of melted butter. Though walleye is a clear favorite, other local fish often get the same treatment. Pork was an early introduction and is still popular today. Ham or bacon is often used to flavor game or side dishes.
In terms of game meat, the ring-necked pheasant (the state bird) is popular in South Dakota. It's usually cooked very simply, dredged in flour and salt and pepper, browned, and baked in cream to cover until tender. Sometimes bacon or ham is layered on, and dried beef is also a possible addition. Because of the sauce, this dish is generally served over egg noodles. Grilling pheasant wrapped in bacon is also a popular choice, and barbecuing with a mild tomato-based sauce is an option as well. Roasting pheasant either with minimal seasonings or with bread stuffing is less common, because the low-fat bird is likely to dry out before it's cooked through unless monitored carefully. Leftover pheasant is used interchangeably with chicken in noodle soups or mayonnaise-based salads. Buffalo is also a popular game meat, and substitutes for beef in local burgers, roasts, and barbecue.
After potatoes were introduced around 1900, they quickly became a staple. Cooked with cured pork, they were and are daily fare for many. Sweet potatoes are also an exceptionally popular side dish, either in the typical American brown sugar or marshmallow casserole, or roasted with caramelized onions. Rutabagas are another common root vegetable side dish, either cooked with apples and brown sugar or added to beef or game stews with potatoes and carrots. Sourdough and corn breads are pioneer staples still regularly served. Cattle ranching is historically an important industry in the state, so beef and dairy products are everyday foods.
Some native foods still survive. Wahwapa iwasna, affectionately called corn balls, are made of dried chokecherries or Juneberries mixed with cornmeal and pan-fried or simmered in water. A more popular dessert is wojapi, native fruit (usually chokecherries) simmered with sugar to a thick, pudding-like treat not so different from the fruit soups of Scandinavian settlers. Wojapi is usually served plain or with fry bread in lieu of jam, but it can also be used as a condiment for roasted meat.
The coffee break with rhubarb pie, a yeasted doughnut, almond cake, or a ginger cookie is still a daily event for many South Dakotans, especially those who inherited a sweet tooth from their Scandinavian ancestors. Milk-based rice pudding is another popular dessert adapted from a northern European recipe. The favorite dessert, in fact the state's official dessert, has German roots. In Germany, kuchen simply means cake, but in South Dakota, it's a specific dessert. The base is a sweet, short crust topped with vanilla–cream cheese custard. Though it's not required, sweetened fruit (usually sliced apples) often comprises the top layer.
-World Trade Press