According to Inuit legend, the whales, seals, and walruses that swim the northern waters were once the fingers of Sedna, goddess of the sea. By some accounts, Sedna’s father panicked in the face of an oncoming storm and threw her overboard, severing her fingers as she tried to hold on to the edge of the kayak. It’s generally believed that Sedna is a vengeful goddess (she did have her fingers chopped off, after all), and that profound respect for the animals, once pieces of the goddess herself, is key to appeasing her. This respect often translates to an ethical kill, and using the entire animal, either as food or tools.
Muktuk is one such dish that uses cuts of meat that are unconventional to the modern palate, but help utilize the whole animal. A deeply traditional Inuit food, muktuk consists of the skin and blubber of a whale, usually a bowhead, beluga, or narwhal, depending on the indigenous community. It’s best served raw in tiny cubes, but it can also be deep-fried, pickled, or stewed.
Depending on the type of whale, muktuk may look like a black cap of skin with soft, pinkish-white blubber, or striated layers of gray, white, and pink—like pork belly, but better. The skin is frustratingly elastic, and is often scored to make chewing somewhat easier. The blubber, however, melts gently as you chew, whispering of the ocean from whence it came, but never overly fishy or briny.
When it comes to muktuk, keeping Sedna happy is both easy and delicious.
Need to Know
Muktuk is a rich source of vitamin C, critical in the North where diseases such as scurvy remain a threat.