Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Whale meat recipes

When travelling around the world I like to get a feel for the local culture, including its cuisine. So when in the Orinoco Delta I sampled live termite - and jolly good they were too.

Greenland has a different style of dish altogether, namely whale, which to be honest I found a bit of a challenge.

The hunters who'd left the narwhal found by the polar bear had been rather successful and as well as the two it was chewing on we came upon many other carcasses around the shoreline. The meat had been cut off, but for one reason or other they hadn't taken it all but left stacks of great chunks in piles nearby.

We speculated as to whether they couldn't fit it all into their boats or whether the polar bear had frightened them off, but later we heard that the custom is to take what you want and leave for others the excess.

Anyhow Siggi filled a couple of large plastic bags with narwhal and then and over the next few days we were to try several forms of it.

Firstly there was raw, sashimi style. This tasted initially like tuna and beef but there was a strong after taste of blood that made me reach for a bag of dried apricots to cleanse the pallet (and I wasn't alone).

Next up was ceviche style marinaded in Siggi's "mix of soy sauce, ginger, garlic and chili and then sprinkled with a bit of fresh lime".

The main serving was in a stew with ginger. I don't have that recipe to hand but the book "A Viking Voyage" (review to come) has one that includes onions, garlic, mushrooms, Jack Daniels, brown sugar, cayenne, oregano, salt and pepper with a marinade of oil, lemon juice, soy sauce and garlic which they seemed to like.

Then some meat was cut fine and then air dried on the foredeck:
Narwhal jerky, even when spiced with cayenne, did not find many takers, probably because it still had a strong, lingering after-taste of blood and the texture of a dry carpet.

We had more whale when we had the farewell dinner in Tasiilaq including some of the prized skin, again raw, known locally as muktuk. It's meant to have a great taste but to be honest was a bit bland with a chewy texture.

I understand that this post might be a bit controversial for some but the meat would have gone to waste if we hadn't taken it, and it is one of the Greenland Inuits traditional source of food.

As I said earlier I like to be open to experience other cultures and their cuisine, and narwhal most definitely was new to me.

Its not one I'm planning to repeat, but if I were to return to Greenland I would have to be prepared to eat as the locals do - though maybe with a bag of dried apricots to hand just in case.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't taste like checken then! Is it also aged to make it tender? Do the Inuit eat it rotting like in some places where they rot fish heads?

Read the termite post too. Brave boy.

JP said...

No! Not like chicken!!

No knowledge of aging and rotting versions - might be just as well ;)