Thursday, April 2, 2009

Eating Whale

Dan and I have worked out a system where he chooses the restaurant for one night, and I choose it for the next night.  He loves to eat the strange and I am willing to try new things.  Japanese restaurants often specialize in one thing -- ramen, tonkatsu (pork cutlet), pigs' feet, yakitori, oden, unagi (eel), etc.  Near our apartment, there is a restaurant that specializes in whale meat. Whale meat used to be very popular in Japanese culture, but now it is quite rare.   Everything from the whale was used; according to Wikipedia, an old Japanese proverb goes something like "There's nothing to throw away from a whale except its voice."
The International Whaling Committee (IWC) issued a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982, and the Japanese were strong-armed into cutting back on whaling.  Apparently, the Japanese public still overwhelmingly favors whaling.
I have to admit, I felt a bit queasy eating whale.  It's one thing eating fish, but whale?  I don't know why I draw that distinction, but I don't want us killing whales!

This is the first course: whale sashimi.  Really really not my thing.  It tasted a little bloody, as I guess mammal sashimi would taste.  Dan enjoyed it; he thought it was the most 'different' tasting dish.  Many of the others he felt tasted like ordinary meat.

Deep-fried whale (karaage) -- this was all right, but the meat was a bit tough.

Whale BBQ -- we grilled this meat on our own little grill.  It was flavored with soy sauce and sesame and was very thin.  This was my favorite, partially because it didn't taste like whale and partially because it was thin enough to be tender.

Whale tongue stew -- this (yes, that's the whole dish) cost like $10.  The whale tongue was incredibly fatty, so much so that I could not tolerate it.  The stew had a nice flavor, though.  (I didn't know tongue was so fatty?)

Whale cutlet and leek skewers -- This is like whale katsu.  The flavoring, especially with the dollop of mustard, was very good; however, the meat was so tough, I could barely bite into it.

I think that the conclusion is that whale meat is very expensive and also very tough to eat.  I would much rather eat more tender meat.  ;)  I also had some conscience problems while eating it, but Dan did not have such qualms.  Anyway, it was interesting (and expensive) to try once.
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  1. I think I saw an episode of some food travel show where he was in a scandinavian country. They ranked beef as a 5/10, reindeer at 7/10 and whale at 9/10 in terms of meat deliciousness