Photo: Shane Rounce

The 12 Foods Alaskans Crave When They Go Home

Alaska Culture
by Kaitlin Armstrong Jan 23, 2018

Beyond the typical American fare, Alaskans have unique cuisine encompassing everything from world-class seafood to game meat. Some of our favorite staple foods can’t be found outside of Alaska — or they simply don’t taste the same.

Here are the foods we get nostalgic for, and can’t wait to feast on when we make a trip back home.

1. Oysters and brews

While oysters aren’t native to our waters, they thrive in hatcheries along Alaska’s southern coast. Raw or Rockefeller, a dozen oysters and a round of local brews make for a satisfying summer appetizer.

2. Seafood chowder

At the mention of “chowder,” you might immediately think Cape Cod, but New England’s got nothing on Alaska’s seafood chowder. Why settle for just clams when you can pack it with anything on hand? We jazz it up with salmon, halibut, scallops, shrimp, or bacon.

3. Sourdough pancakes

Sourdough’s presence in the Last Frontier can be traced back to Gold Rush days. Among the few possessions they carried north, hopeful miners packed their sourdough starters so they could reliably bake bread and other goods. Today, the tradition lives on — Alaskans love tangy sourdough pancakes doused with butter and birch or maple syrup.

4. King Crab

King Crab is Alaska’s quintessential delicacy, perfect for any holiday or special occasion. Delicate and buttery, with a hint of sweetness, it hardly needs an accompaniment. We keep it simple — steam it up, serve with a side of butter, and dig in.

5. Smoked salmon

One of our favorite ways to process our catch of salmon is to smoke it. Recipes are perfected and passed down through generations, and the process of brining, curing, drying, and smoking our fish results in unbeatable flavor. We’ll enjoy it on crackers, blended into a cream cheese dip, or popped straight into our mouths like candy.

6. Moose stew

Moose, admittedly, isn’t the noblest of meats. The animals are lean and tend to be a little gamy. Still, moose stew is one of the best ways to tenderize the meat. This staple of our winter diet always hits us with a wave of nostalgia.

7. Reindeer sausage

Reindeer sausage is the Alaskan twist on the hot dog. Spicy, peppery, and yes, made with real reindeer meal, it’s equally delicious fried up alongside eggs and potatoes or served on a bun with a pile of peppers, grilled onions, and melted cheese.

8. Fresh grilled catch

Alaskans are addicted to fresh fish — we know that salmon, halibut, and cod never taste better than when they’re pulled straight from the water. So after a long day of fishing, the best reward is grilling up our catch. It barely needs to be dressed up — just little salt, pepper, and lemon will help bring out the best flavor.

9. Rhubarb everything

Rhubarb is plentiful throughout the summer, so it makes an appearance in a number of desserts. We’re happy to have rhubarb jam, compote, pie, crumble, or ice cream on the menu, with or without added strawberries.

10. Salmon burgers

While 100% wild Alaska salmon is always best fresh, we like to mix it up at times. If we have leftovers, we’ll take the scraps and mix them with bread crumbs, seasonings, and a little egg. Then we’ll fry the patty golden brown and serve it on a hearty bun with mayo and an optional side of fries.

11. Salmon & crab cakes

Same concept as salmon burgers here, except we’ll form smaller patties and typically serve them sans bun. On a bed of lettuce, these make for a slightly healthier variation.

12. Akutaq

Akutaq, also known as Eskimo Ice Cream, is a traditional Yup’ik treat made from whipped animal fat, fish, and berries. Akutaq was an important staple food that provided sustenance to Alaska Native hunters, and different variations may use seal oil, white fish, whale or game fat, or fresh snow. Nowadays, Crisco is commonly substituted, and the result is a creamy, sweet dish enjoyed by Native communities across the state.

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