Seal soup for dinner? Get to know Greenland’s Inuit cuisine

“Every family has their own way of cutting blubber,” Nivi casually explains as she wields a curved knife (known as an Ulu) and slices into thick narwhal blubber.

Once I move past my mental image of the cute Arctic whale with its protruding tusk, I now feel humbled to partake in this. Originally from Eastern Greenland, Nivi is an art curator at a local museum, and is trialing a supper club concept as a way of introducing travelers to her culture through its food.

The dinner menu is free-range Greenlandic lamb (sava) from the south. Besides sheep and reindeer, the largest land mammal, weighing upwards of 800 pounds, is the musk-ox or umimmak which means “the long-bearded one” in Greenlandic. Musk-ox meat tartare is popular around the region, while its fur has kept them warm for millennia.

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I’m sitting in Nivi’s apartment with its minimalist-style Danish furniture, accentuated by the occasional sheep fur here and seal skin there. Before us, a spread of Greenlandic tapas prepared by Nivi. There’s lumpfish roe, dried cod, smoked shrimps, cured reindeer, and now, pieces of narwhal, which we’ll dip in soy sauce.

For centuries, whale fat (blubber) has provided essential Vitamin C and fatty oils needed to help balance the Inuit diet. Grabbing a piece of narwhal blubber, I was caught off-guard by its crunchy consistency. I move onto the curious white cartilage separating the fat from the rawhide and keep chewing at it like a goat—until Nivi informs me that part was actually inedible.

As we dip blubber pieces into soy sauce while the herb-scented waft of roasting lamb fills the air, Nivi suggests I visit the local fish market to see what all these dried, cured, preserved, and smoked foods on our dinner table look like in their raw state.

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