Learn something new every day More Info... by email
Kiviak is a dish of fermented seagull-like birds prepared by Inuit people in Northern Greenland. The practice, which evolved over several centuries as an indigenous Inuit custom, involves stuffing seagull-like birds inside a seal skin for a long fermentation process underground. After several months, the carcass is opened and the birds are stripped of skin and feathers before the vitamin-rich meat, organs and even bones are consumed raw.
Since Inuit culture is based around the Artic climate, where the soil cannot grow vegetables and grains, the diet there requires that most necessary nutrients come from meat. This results in eating a lot of fish, seal and other animals, which provide plentiful protein and hopefully enough vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates needed for survival. Since kiviak takes about two-thirds of a year to properly ferment, the dish is prepared in the spring so it can be dug up when needed for food in the middle of the winter, often as a special treat for the holidays.
The birds used by Inuits to prepare kiviak are called auks. This type of bird resembles a seagull, only smaller, and is readily found flocking to scavenge scraps. They are then plucked from the sky with a noose on a pole, or just shot. When several hundred birds are amassed, a greased seal skin that has been saved from a recent meal is wrapped around the pile of birds and then sewn shut into a pouch for fermentation.
Kiviak is stored underground for about seven months. It is placed under a large rock with the seam facing upward. This allows the gases to escape through the crack. On top of the stone goes smaller rocks and snow. During this time, the birds slowly rot, becoming a fermented soup of meat and bone. At this point they are ready to eat.
The fermented birds are regularly eaten with or without the skin. After pulling off the wings and removing the feathers, the rest of the bird is customarily consumed raw — the meat, bones, head and even the nutrient-rich inner organs. The flavor is reportedly similar to a pungently stinky cheese.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!