September 18, 2013

Stink Fish: A Native Food

Obviously, even the principal has noticed how much I take pictures for this blog...
Yesterday, Grant, the principal here in Newtok, calls me and tells me that him and his wife are preparing a fish meal and did not know if I wanted to come take pictures.

The native people in this area have a special food they call stink fish.
I have only ever heard of it, so when Grant called and offered for us to come watch how they prepared it, I was all about it!

Now, I can only imagine the looks you are all giving your computer screen now just by the name of the fish meal. Also, you are probably thinking why they would even attempt to eat something they call "stink fish". I know this, because I have thought the same things!  It was really neat to see Grant and Sarah prepare this meal they will enjoy in a few weeks!

These are the fish they used yesterday - white fish.  Apparently, you can get a lot from these fish, in a lot of varieties!  Sarah, Grant's wife, told us people use these fish to make stink fish -obviously- but you can also eat them raw or eat the eggs that some of them have.  So of course, I had to try it. I tried both the eggs and the raw fish, while Josh only tried the fish. (He said he did not have to prove anything to anyone by trying raw fish eggs. Wimp!)

 Sarah cutting the fish to get the eggs with an ulu.
It surprised me how many eggs just one fish had! I wish I would have taken a close up of them... they looked like tiny beads!

Sarah was nice enough to fillet one fish for us to try!
The raw fish and eggs really weren't that bad. They didn't taste "fishy" or like anything for that matter. How crazy is it that she just cut up the fish, and right there, people were eating from it?!

Loren, Grant's son who is in my fifth grade class, was not a huge fan of the raw fish!

Almost everyone who was there tried a piece of raw fish. By the end of it, the fish was just bones...

Loren with one of his best friends and also another 5th grader, Logan.

Sarah wanted to keep the eggs fresh because she adds them to her akutaq - which from previous blogs you know is Eskimo ice cream! Good job! So next time she offers us some ice cream, I'll take a double look and see if there are fish eggs in it!

So to prepare stink fish, all you basically need are white fish, a box, and moss. You only need an ulu if you want to cut out the fish eggs, otherwise, you leave the fish alone. You don't even gut them! Josh, out of the entire process, thought that was the most interesting thing.. 

Here, Grant is filling the box with moss they collected from out in the tundra. The purpose for this moss is to keep flies or bugs from getting to the fish.
After the first layer of moss is down, you start laying the fish on top.

Once you have all the fish sorted out, you just put moss on top...

...and close it up! A pretty simple meal if you ask me!

Now is the best and only time to prepare stink fish. The weather, though it is much chillier than back home in IL, is perfect where it is nice enough, but cool enough, to allow the fish to "cook" the way it is supposed to.  I asked Sarah and Grant how long they leave it, and it turns out, people even like their stink fish a certain way. 
The whole purpose of letting it "cook" this way is for it to age. Depending on how long you let it age, the more flavor you will have. Sarah only likes hers to be in the box for one week. Grant likes his for two weeks.  Sarah was even joking about how she can't handle the flavor like Grant can!

I did not realize this until yesterday, but they will not eat it as soon as it comes out of the box. They take it out and then freeze it. This allows the fish to harden and makes it easier to cut and eat. 

I am so happy we got to learn and watch this type of meal get prepared.

I guess you will all find out which one the Hall's enjoyed.. one week or two...


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  2. Wow, you are braver than I remember :) Love the Blog Emily. Now tell Josh to go find me a Mammoth tooth!
    Love you,

  3. Emily, our roles have for sure reversed. You are now my teacher through your Blogs, and I am your student. I am loving it! Can't wait to see if you like the Stink Fish. FYI: I don't have stink fish on my menus for next week. :)

  4. Will this work for Zed and Josh's geese? You know like "stink geese"? If you publish a cook book after your adventure, you could name it "Eating Stinky" or something. We so love this blog at my house and we love you two! Les and Pat

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