Kiviak: The Bizarre Greenland Inuit Delicacy
Kiviak (sometimes spelled Kiviaq) is quite possibly one of the strangest, most bizarre delicacies eaten anywhere in the world.
A traditional dish eaten in Greenland by inuits during the winter period, particularly over Christmas, Kiviak consists of hundreds of dead auk birds stuffed into a dead seal and left to ferment under a rock for around three months.
Yes, you read that correct! Around 400-500 dead auk birds are used, because the seal needs to be packed very tightly before being sealed and fermented.
Inuits stuff in every part of the auk bird, feet, feathers, beak, everything – sound delicious so far? I thought not…
Originally made to ensure there was food available in the bitter winter months, the seal fat is used to repel flies, whereas the large rocks are there to keep as much air out as possible to prevent it from going bad.
Oils are also applied to the skin of the seal to prevent maggots from infesting the carcass.
Kiviak was a necessary source of vitamins and meat when the cold, dark winters would make it difficult to find food or dangerous because of unsafe ice. This method of storing and preparing over the winter months would have saved many inuit lives in the far north regions of Greenland.
Whilst Kiviak may look disgusting, it is actually considered to be a dish eaten on special occasions such as Christmas or birthdays. In fact, in one tragic tale, an old, Greenlandic man died from eating bad Kiviak and then at his funeral guests were served more of the same dish, leading to a widespread hospitalisation.
How Kiviak is eaten in Greenland
The fermenting process means that the bird meat becomes tenderised from the seal fat, allowing you to eat them raw. The most popular way to consume Kiviak is to bite off the head of the auk and suck out the juices.
The feathers are torn off the bird and it is picked clean and washed before being eaten. Chunks of the bird meat can then just be eaten whole.
The results are, as expected, a very sticky, pungent-smelling meat that doesn’t appear to be very appetizing.
Of course, natives will tell you that it is, in fact, very delicious as the fermenting has made the meat rich in flavor. It is said to taste similar to mature cheeses or liquorice.
The best part of the Kiviak is said to be the heart. The intestinal fluids can also be used in combination with other foods or dishes as a sauce. Yum!
Nordic countries are no stranger to bizarre foods; in Norway, eating a whole sheep’s head is considered a delicacy! And throughout Europe you will find a whole host of amazing, weird and interesting dishes. For more tales of travel and food, check out the Travel Food Atlas blog.