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Whale Meat


cabrales
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I read an article in International Courier, Hors Series, on Chef Mutsuko Ohnishi of the whale meat specialty restaurant Tokuya in Osaka. Have any members visited Tokuya or otherwise taken in whale meat? :wink:

The chef is active in Japanese associations advocating the use of whale meat in cuisine. She has also written a book entitled "The Whale Cuisine of Mrs. Ohnishi".  One of the specialties is whale stew (hari hari nabe) -- thinly sliced whale meat simmered in a vegetable bouillon with shitake mushrooms and chilli. Also potentially available are: whale carpaccio; small pieces of raw meat; raw liver; raw heart; fried whale intestines; whale steak.  

The Courrier International article describes the taste of whale meat as resembling beef, but with a pronounced game taste, rather than fish. Mrs. Ohnishi noted: "The meat is not of the same taste as beef; it's more tender and more easily digestible."  The article indicated that Japan is not the only country in which whale is served (e.g., Alaska, Indonesia, Norway, Korea, Iceland and Saint-Vincent-and-the-Grenadines (?) in the Caribbean).

In this post, no attempt has been made to address considerations relating to marine life depletion, the differences across countries in products that are viewed as food, the international politics of Japan's efforts to lift certain bans on whale hunting, any cultural significance Japan may attach to whale meat, etc.

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Cabrales - could you provide some information on this topic of whale meat consumption in Japan? My understanding is that until the latter part of the 19th C. red meat was not consumed in Japan, would this include whale meat also? The official view from the Japanese Gov. is that is an important tradional food stuff. Fair enough, but is this true? Even if Whale meat was outside the ban on red meat consumption, I can't see how you would transport large amounts of it around the country before the 20th C (could it of been salted?). Where does this leave "Tradition"?

It is an emotive subject, so it is difficult to get the a clear picture on the subject (especially as I know very little of Japanese social history). There seems to be in incredible effort to increase the level of whale meat consumption in Japan, why is this do you think?

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I read an article yesterday in the Seattle Times about whale meat, which included a photo of a couple of Japanese women tasting whale meat.  The article included some statistics on how many Japanese eat whale, have eaten whale in the past, etc.  While I don't agree with whale killing, I respect cultures that have the legal right to do so, such as our Washington State Makah Indian tribe, (I just wish they wouldn't).  To view the article, Click here

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Cabrales - could you provide some information on this topic of whale meat consumption in Japan? My understanding is that until the latter part of the 19th C. red meat was not consumed in Japan, would this include whale meat also? The official view from the Japanese Gov. is that is an important tradional food stuff. Fair enough, but is this true? Even if Whale meat was outside the ban on red meat consumption, I can't see how you would transport large amounts of it around the country before the 20th C (could it of been salted?). Where does this leave "Tradition"?

Adam:

We have whale hunting/eating history of several hundreds

years long.

Precisely speaking, what we did not eat was not red meat

but meat of animals with 4 legs.

There were a lot whales in Japanese water then, whale

hunter did not have to travel far. They did not have to

trasnport.

Whale meat were often served for school lunch when beef

and pork were expensive, though the price of whale meat

now is much higher than those of beef or pork.

(* In Japan, public schools usually serve lunch.)

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Adam -- Here are tidbits of information on the historical role of whale consumpation in Japan, consistent with BON's helpful input:

"Whale meat was an important source of protein in an impoverished Japan after World War Two . . . ." (Global News Wire, Business Recorder, April 3, 2002)

"'Whale meat has been part of the Japanese diet for centuries as the gift from the sea,' Japan Whaling Association President Keiichi Nakajima said. 'I would like many young people to taste it and learn more about our  cultural heritage.'" (AP Online, April 9, 2002)

"After the ravages of the Second World War, many impoverished Japanese ate whale meat and munched on whale bacon sold by street vendors because it was cheap and nourishing. The Japanese ate 220,000 tons of whale meat in 1962, but under the IWC ban the total fell to less than 3,000 tons last year." (Edmonton Journal, September 2, 2000)

"While Japan's whaling history may not be as long as Norway's, it is no less culturally significant to the current residents of coastal villages who have been affected by the moratorium on whaling. Japan's whaling culture has been in existence for centuries." (Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, Fall 2000)

Advocacy piece: "Many of the arguments used to support a return to commercial whaling are specious or unsubstantiated, much of the  cultural  importance concocted. While there is strong evidence whale hunting has played a part in  Japanese culture for centuries, it was during times of scarcity in the run-up to and during World War II that whale eating became widespread. For most Japanese who have eaten it regularly, it was as a school lunch during the war. Equally, the whaling industry played a significant part in Australia's history, but that in itself is not an argument for continued hunting when a resource has been virtually eliminated." (Australian Financial Review, August 27, 2001)

"At least part of  Japan's  wish to go whaling is  cultural,  reflecting a general aversion to change, acknowledges [Cassandra] Phillips [of the World Wide Fund for Nature] . . . . Japan must also fear that if it gives in on whaling it could be setting itself up for an endless list of similar demands on one of the world's biggest fish-eating nations. Tuna, without which no sushi dinner is complete, has already become a target."  Toronto Star, September 2, 2000.

The excerpts below relate to certain existing culture-based justifications for allowing select groups to engage in whaling:

-- "One of the most controversial exceptions to the whaling moratorium was granted to the Inuit people in the Arctic Circle. While few doubted that the Inuits are aboriginal, the exception is unpopular because the Inuit are allowed to hunt bowhead whales, a species that is more endangered than most. . . . This exception, made upon the United States' urging . . . .  More recently, the Makah Indians in Washington state have resumed hunting gray whales. Like the Inuits, the Makah's whaling practices date back hundreds and even thousands of years by some accounts. . . . Whaling was so important to the Makah that they are the only Native American  group to reserve the right to whale in a treaty [with the US]." (Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, Fall 2000)

Other Information:

-- Another restaurant famous for whale meat is Tomoko Takahashi's  *Gonso Kujiraya in Tokyo*. The April 7, 2002 edition of the Sunday Times (London) indicates that whale dishes offered there include: sashimi, deep frying in batter, steak (typically accompanied by tomato and lettuce), soup, and skin.

-- Since 1986, the International Whaling Commission has imposed a ban on commercial whaling, although exceptions for "scientific research"-motivated whaling (which Japan does conduct) are in place. Norway does not attempt to cloak its  whale hunting under this exception.  The upcoming annual IWC meeting at the Japanese town of Shimonoseki on May 20-24 is expected to be the venue for Japan and Norway to continue their push for the lifting of the commercial whaling ban. The IWF's scientific committe meets April 27-May 9.

-- Japan recently started hauling in "sei whales", which are an endangered species, for "scientific research" purposes.

-- Ironically, Japan has at times argued that whales are responsible for depletion of fish stock. In a recent statement, the World Wildlife Foundation indicated that "human overfishing and poor fisheries management, in addition to climate change and other environmental factors, are the reason for fish shortages . . . ."

Other arguments made by Japan (no evaluations of validity by me, of course) include:

(1) Minke whales have substantial populations.

(2) The ban is an expression of "cultural imperialism" by various Western nations.

(3) Improvements in harpoon technology are reducing the concerns with respect to animal welfare.

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Another restaurant famous for whale meat is Tomoko Takahashi's  *Gonso Kujiraya in Tokyo*. The April 7, 2002 edition of the Sunday Times (London) indicates that whale dishes offered there include: sashimi, deep frying in batter, steak (typically accompanied by tomato and lettuce), soup, and skin.

An August 10, 2000 article in the NYT indicates that *Taruichi*, a restaurant in Tokyo (Shinjuku district) also serves whale meat.

http://www2.gol.com/users/coynerhm/japan_f...ng_on_whale.htm ("There were 36 choices in all, including fried whale, raw whale, whale bacon, whale heart, whale testicle, whale kidney, and even ice cream made from the whale's fat.")

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BON -- If you are comfortable responding, have you sampled whale meat, and have you heard of whale meat being offered together with raemen? I would imagine you would be interested in what whale soup/broth tastes like, given the integral connection between broth and raemen.

cabrales

I have eaten whale meat in "Tatsuta age" (starched and deepfried) and "Yamatoni" (simmered in soy sauce & mirin tasted broth), but it was pretty long ago. It was more tender than beef and less fatty, if I remember it accurately.

Whale broth ramen! :wow: This is the last combination which I thought of. Whale meat (bones, too, probably!) are to expensive as ingredients for ramen soup!

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Here's an article on someone selling whale burgers and hpt dogs. Clicku. Some people liked it, some didn't. The article ends with:

"If I'm eating a hamburger, I want it to really taste like hamburger," she said. "And if I'm eating whale, I want it to really taste like whale."

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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  • 1 year later...
  • 1 month later...

now that winter in descending upon us, it is time for harihari-nabe!

a nabe (one pot dish) made with thin slices of whale meat and mizuna with a soy sauce based broth.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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  • 5 months later...
here are some pictures of various types of kujira (whale) dishes:

Oh, yes. くじら竜田揚 (whale tatsuta age). They were served at school lunch when I was in an elementary school in the late 60s and the early 70s. I loved them then.

I don't want to go into details of the history of whaling in Japan or "cultural imperialism" because that's very boring to me. All I want to say is this:

I could hardly eat any meat if I had to slaughter an animal myself, because of remorse. But I do eat various types of meat every day. Here is one Japanese sentence that I want everyone to know; not just the sentence itself but also the very philosophy underlying that sentence: Itadakimasu. And, here is a copy of part of a post by a member of this forum, which I think is of great value:

In order to sustain your life you must take other life, the lives of plants and animals and it is thought to be absurd to think that you simply have the "right" to do this. 2 of many reasons one might bow is to either show gratitude for a good deed or to show shame for something done wrong - though obviously it is also a sign of respect. Saying Itadakimasu is the spirit of both feeling grateful and sorry at the same time. Grateful for the sacrifice made, showing respect for those who have sacrificed and being sorry for being so selfish as to sacrifice the life of another to sustain your own. Though to live there is no other choice.

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  • 1 year later...

Another article (from today) on the sale of whale burgers.

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese fast food chain said it would sell 200 whale burgers a day to meet strong demand from its customers amid global criticism over the country's bid to expand whaling.

 

Burger chain Lucky Pierrot, which runs 10 shops in the northern island of Hokkaido, said the burger using minke whales caught under Japan's controversial "research" whaling program was selling like hotcakes.

"We fry minke whale meat and the burger really tastes like beef," manager Miku Oh said.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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  • 1 month later...

I tried it on my recent trip to tokyo. I had it in a nice restaurant in Shibuya, the name escaped me, but honestly, I wasn't that impressed. I only liked the grilled one, which totally taste like beef. Otherwise, it's a bit rubbery to my taste.

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I tried it on my recent trip to tokyo. I had it in a nice restaurant in Shibuya, the name escaped me, but honestly, I wasn't that impressed. I only liked the grilled one, which totally taste like beef. Otherwise, it's a bit rubbery to my taste.

The restaurant must be Kujiraya:

http://www.harmful.org/homedespot/newtdr/N...tores/whale.htm

http://www.bento.com/rev/2167.html

Whale meat is whale meat, but come to think of it, I guess you can say that it tastes like beef jerky.

Whale meat smelled of blood. My mother used to soak it in milk before cooking to get rid of the smell.

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At a souvenir store in Sapporo station, they were selling cans of whale curry (along with seal, bear, and deer curry), but they were 1000 yen each so I didn't buy it. Has anybody tried any of these? I went to an Ainu restaurant while I was there, too, hoping I'd get to try some bear, but I had no luck.

Speaking of Ainu food, this is a long shot, but does anyone know of any literature on it (cookbooks, histories, etc.)? I'd love to find out more.

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  • 4 months later...

This was a gift my husband received from a friend, it was kujira no himono or semi dried whale meat. It had been marinated in a teriyaki like sauce and dried, the directions said to gently sear it over a flame before eating. It was in one large piece that we cut into bite sized pieces with scissors. If I hadn't known better I would have thought it was beef jerky...

gallery_6134_1960_7802.jpg

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Totally agree with Hiroyuki on the "Itadakimasu" concept.

I had whale for the first time this year, several weeks apart, both times without knowing it was on the menu. First in Kozue, in a very delicate nabe. Rather too fatty--it was mostly blubber--with a strong, gamey flavor. I decided it wasn't a taste worth acquiring, especially since I had just fallen in love with suppon (turtle). Then I had it in kind of a prosciutto-like salt cure in Norway, very thinly sliced and served on a salad. Better, and possibly worth eating again. However, I still prefer pata negra ham.

Believe it or not, horse is very good, especially as carpaccio.

Edited by Culinista (log)
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  • 10 months later...
I just noticed that my local grocery store (Ikari) is carrying cans (like tins of tuna) of whale meat (minke).  They're quite expensive--about Y580 for a small can.  I won't be buying it--I've had whale more than once, and haven't liked it much.

Do you mean you have noticed them for the first time since you came to Japan? They have been around for decades! :blink:

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In Northern Newfoundland, in the 1970's, whale was occasionally eaten in the outports. I know that smaller whales often became fouled in fish nets, which may be why they were taken in the first place; once the animal's dead (and your your nets are fouled, which means no fish), why would you not?

Toughness is certainly a characteristic of most of the animal's flesh. This is only to be expected, since most of the whale's muscle is used constantly for swimming; therefore tender little-used muscles are hard to come by. There are many ways to compensate for that, of course. The way my father prepared it, when we were given some, was by long braising in the oven. It came out pretty tender.

The flesh was rich and dark, definitely gamier than beef. I'd say it had more in common with seal or moose; that rich dark gaminess that some perceive as "livery." I don't quite make that association myself, but then again I like liver...

I'd be chary of whale meat, on the whole, because so many species are dangerously depleted. Assuming that I knew the animal was humanely harvested, and that it was from a non-threatened species, I would not have any real objection to cooking and eating it.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Oh, and an afterthought...

For centuries whale meat, like beaver, was considered to be "not meat" in the Catholic countries of Europe, and therefore suitable for Lenten or fast days. The Basques and Scandinavians, in particular, had a thriving trade in catering to this little bit of culinary hypocrisy.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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