Tuktu -- as you like it
In search of the perfect caribou recipe

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit ( May 24/00) - A piece of chicken, a slice of ham or a pork chop might do it for some Nunavummiut.

But for many -- and we could even say for most without being in danger of exaggerating -- caribou meat is the hot ticket, the only way to go.

Whether it be eaten raw, frozen, fried, stewed or barbecued, the recipes for tuktu are as plentiful as the animals themselves.

Ask Glenn McLean, the MLA for Baker Lake.

A self-professed carnivore who gets hungry just talking about caribou meat, McLean -- once he gets talking about his caribou culinary skills -- has a different recipe for every day of the week.

"I like frying it with onions and butter and garlic salt," said McLean, from his constituency office in Baker Lake.

"You cut it into really thin pieces and throw it into the pan. It's delicious that way. You melt the butter, but don't cook the caribou too long."

McLean said he also likes to coat the bottom of his cast-iron pan in one-quarter of an inch of barbecue sauce before throwing the succulent meat in to simmer.

"Or you can take a roast and put about six bacon slices on top of it and bake it that way," said McLean, whose other tundra game dishes include caribou chili, caribou spaghetti sauce and caribou sausage.

Arviat's Melinda Kaviok is also found of frying her tuktu with onions and butter, but especially likes to munch on the meat when it's frozen, "with soya sauce," she said, bringing up one of the most popular ways to devour the meat.

The employee of Qitiqliq secondary school added that she was fond of the way her mother prepared caribou.

"Boiled, with soup, like a stew," said Kaviok.

"You add carrots and potatoes. I don't usually cook the stew. My mom does. I just help her with the meat," she said, referring to the little cubes she cuts up for the pot of meaty goodness.

When it comes to freshly killed caribou, Chesterfield Inlet resident Hilarie Makpah said the only way to do the meat justice was to get it into a pot of salted, boiling water.

"The chest parts and the tongue, I prefer it with just water and salt and potatoes. When the potatoes are soft, you take them out and mash them up. That's an excellent meal," said Makpah, an Inuktitut instructor at Arctic College.

A good roast is the way to cook the meat located between the neck and the chest (with potatoes, onions and garlic of course), ribs are boiled and then touched up with a special sauce and the back end is saved for frying.

"The parts where we used to get the thread from, at the back, we get good chunks there for oriental-style foods with rice and a vegetable mixture," said Makpah.

With mouths watering and hands itchy to get into the kitchen, there's just one question left -- should simplicity rule or is it a good idea to keep things spicy?

According to Makpah, keeping to the basics is the way to go.

"For me, because my husband is so picky, simple is better."