What is the whale delicacy “maktaq”?


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A delicacy for the Inuit natives in Canada and Greenland is maktaq (also muktuk, maktaaq), which is narwal skin that has been dried and cut into pieces.

“A year with maktaq is a year without the full measure of life,” is an ancient Inuit saying that reveals how valued the narwhal skin treats are in the community.

In warmer climates, it’s common to find locally-produced pork rinds that are usually consumed as a treat, much like popcorn or potato chips. Pork rinds are merely another way farmers found to use all of the pork, which, in this case, involved cutting the skin of the pig into bite-size pieces and frying them.

Traditionally, the best Inuit hunters were those who brought home the most maktaq because the skin is a good source of protein in an environment short of options. Not only a source of protein and and necessary calories, maktaq is also a good source of vitamin C, zinc, and retinol, according to researchers.

A sample of maktaq (maktaaq, muktuk) that is made from the skin of narwhal.

Beluga whales can also be harvested to make maktaq, as can bowhead whale, though the narwhal maktaq has been historically more highly-prized in the Inuit communities.

There are a variety of ways to prepare maktaq. In previous generations before contemporary appliances, the delicacy was eaten raw since that was the only option. However, today maktaq can be served pickled, fried, or, of course, raw (thought condiments such as soy sauce may be added). It is said maktaq tastes nutty, with one person saying it reminded him of almonds.