Photo Story | Canadian High Arctic and Greenland

Six Arctic Foods & Beverages You Don't Want to Miss

© Dennis Minty

The North is a culinary wonderland for adventurous eaters, and the opportunity to try both new and traditional Inuit foods is a highlight our expeditions. Cruise Director Ellie Clin shares six of her must-try personal favourites—meats, fish, fruit, and beans(!)—from this tasty region of the world.
Maktaaq with dipping sauces Arctic food

© Ellie Clin

Maktaaq

Eaten with your hands, maktaaq is the skin and blubber of a narwhal, beluga, or bowhead whale. Very chewy in texture, it is cut into bite-sized pieces and scored with a crescent-shaped ulu knife, often served dipped in soy sauce or savoury soup base. In Inuit homes today, it’s common for families to gather around large pieces of cardboard spread out on the floor to share traditional country food together, and maktaaq is a favourite—so much so that I feel especially grateful and humbled when friends share this food with me. If you are lucky enough to be offered some by a generous host, be sure to try this special delicacy at least once in your life.

Drying Arctic char fish

© Lee Narraway

Arctic char

Found throughout Arctic waters, char’s rich orange flesh has a similar flavour to wild salmon. Traditionally served dried, frozen, or fresh like sushi, it’s also delicious poached or baked. My personal favourite is pitsik, when the fish is scored, salted, and dried out in the fresh air. When it’s ready to eat, you peel the dried fish away from the skin, and the flavour and texture is similar to a combination of gravlax and jerky. Depending on the weather and the time of year, it’s common to see drying racks up around the Arctic communities we visit, and I think they make a particularly beautiful photo opportunity, too.

Muskox burger Arctic foods

© Lynn Moorman

Muskox burgers

As with all traditional hunting practices, every part of the muskox is used by Inuit—the undercoat fur creates luxurious fibres of qiviut, the horns become beautiful jewelry, and, most luckily for us gourmands, the meat can be ground into scrumptious burgers. Café Iluliaq in Ilulissat is a popular haunt to find them, but they are served in a number of restaurants throughout Greenland. You're likely to find caribou burgers on the menus of these places, too. Whether you like your burgers plain or topped with the works, the patty is a bit richer than a beef equivalent, and it’s likely that you'll love the novelty as much as the flavour.

Bakeapple cloudberry bush

© Dennis Minty

Bakeapples

Also called cloudberries (or aqpik in Inuktitut), these bumpy, golden beauties ripen along the tundra in late summer and early fall. Like their raspberry cousins, bakeapples are best eaten freshly picked by the handful, but they are also delicious when baked in desserts or made into jam and slathered on fry bread. I’ve had the best luck finding the preserves for sale further south in souvenir shops throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Though bakeapples are my personal favourite, wild partridgeberries, crowberries, or blueberries are also great. Akutaq is a dessert that coats berries with whipped fat or brain (similar in consistency to coconut oil) and is then eaten like ice cream.

Kaapittiaq coffee

© Jessie Brinkman Evans

Kaapittiaq coffee

Kaapittiaq means “good coffee” in the Inuinnaqtun language, and is a must-try for any java junkie like me. The beans are sourced from Indigenous farmers in Peru and then roasted into medium, dark, and espresso blends. As an Inuit-owned social enterprise company, they re-invest their profits into cultural and language revitalization programs for the Pitkuhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society. Look for Kaapittiaq in grocery stores throughout Nunavut, or make it your regular morning brew at home by buying from their online shop.

Seal harvest knife

© Jessica Winters

Seal

Seal is making a culinary resurgence. After a series of anti-sealing campaigns that had serious economic and cultural ramifications on Inuit communities, today hashtags like #huntseal #eatseal #wearseal are bringing the cause of Inuit food sovereignty to social media platforms. Now you can find seal everywhere in the North as well as further south, whether as a staple meal in Inuit households or on the menus of haute cuisine restaurants. It can be prepared as a simple comfort food (boiled and eaten with mustard!) or much more intricately (seal tartare, anyone?). It is a rite of passage for hunters to eat the fresh, raw liver of their first seal, while the eyeballs make for a photogenic snack.

About the Author

Ellie Clin

Ellie Clin

Cruise Director

Ellie Clin is an environmental educator by training and an adventurer at heart, having explored all seven continents and both polar regions. She's also a writer, scuba diver, sailor, general professional vagabond, and self-professed foodie. As Cruise Director for Adventure Canada, she loves planning the onboard education program to help guests learn as much as they can about the regions we travel to.