When life gives you a bag of seal meat, make suaasat!
Suaasat is a traditional soup whose main ingredient is seal meat. It looks heartier than any stew I’ve ever seen and packs a distinct flavor punch like Arctic blood.
Many will say it is “old Greenland” food, and that’s probably true. I don’t think I’ve ever seen suaasat served in a restaurant, which would surely opt for a more modern carpaccio preparation instead. Not to mention, it most likely would not be the top seller on the menu as people who have not grown up with the tradition tend to think it’s an… acquired taste.
But I like it, and I approach suaasat like its French cousin, the Vichyssoise. Just because you don’t eat it on the daily doesn’t mean you cannot know how to make it.
So when some fresh seal meat more or less fell into my lap one day, I think my inner Inuit chef was screaming my name.
How does seal meat fall into one’s lap?
There’s a whole Facebook group dedicated to buying and selling things in Nuuk – clothes, housewares, skis, boats, puppies, and even food goods. I saw that my friend/colleague put up for sale bags of seal meat that her boyfriend had caught himself, so I jumped on the chance to buy some. If you’re not a hunter yourself, one usually just buys seal meat at Kalaaliaraq, the fresh Greenlandic market in city center, but it’s much more fun to get it from someone you know!
I wasn’t totally sure what use I would put my seal meat to, until an opportunity presented itself to learn how to make suaasat. So one evening, my American friend and I made ourselves cozy while her Greenlandic husband taught us about this recipe.
1 large stock pot
1 slotted spoon
1 shallow bowl
1-1,5 kg (2-3 lb) seal meat, bone in
salt and pepper, to taste
4-5 handfuls white rice
1 large white onion, chopped
Trim excess fat from the seal meat, leaving some on for flavor.
Fill a stock pot 2/3 full with cold water and place seal into the water.
Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil for 30 minutes. You will notice how the water almost instantly takes on the dark color of the meat.
The blood and fat from the seal will rise to the surface and create a foamy layer. Stir occasionally.
Add the rice and onion to the boiling pot and continue to boil for 10 minutes.
Add the potatoes and continue to boil for 20 minutes.
After approximately 1 hour total cooking time, the suaasat should be ready. Using a slotted spoon, remove the seal from the pot and place into a shallow serving dish. Serve the soup alongside the meat, and with mustard on the side.
(That’s Greenlandic for Dig in!)