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Watch the “Salvation Fish” Transform From Animal to Candle

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In the waterways of northwestern British Columbia, the small eulachon, also known as smelt, candlefish, and halimotkw or Salvation Fish, has had a long history of importance to the area’s indigenous people. Thanks to its nutrient-rich oils, this once-abundant animal has become a food staple, a delicacy, a medicine, a light and heat source, an in-demand product for trade, and a cultural tradition. From National Geographic:

During the cooking, the eulachon oil separates to form a transparent surface layer. Strained into buckets, the grease ranges in color from palest gold to nearly black, depending on how long it’s been fermented…

Creamy as lard when cool and light as olive oil when warmed, the grease is rich in vitamin A and a significant source of vitamins E and K, along with healthful fatty acids. It’s potent fuel for the body: A single tablespoon provides more than 125 calories, and just five ounces (150 milliliters)—an amount still commonly eaten by Nisga’a elders today—supply half an adult’s recommended daily energy intake…

Eulachon used to run in rivers as far south as Northern California — in fact, it’s thought that Oregon’s name might have come from the eulachon’s Chinook name oolighan — but today, the eulachon’s numbers are greatly reduced due to overfishing, industrialization, climate change… National Geographic tells that story, and the story in the beautifully-made video above: The Nisga’a preparation of this locally-celebrated fish.

For more local food resources, watch these next: Coconut Nose to Tail, Mongolian horsemen herd wild horses for their milk, and cutting honey combs and bottling honey by hand.

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