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Planet Ark World Environment News No matter how you slice it, whale tastes unique

Date: 23-May-02
Country: JAPAN

Japanese pride themselves on the fact that they use every part of the whale, though environmentalists would prefer they watched the giant marine mammals rather than ate them.

Blubber is boiled until it turns crinkly and chewy, then dressed with tart sauces of chopped pickled plum or smooth, creamy ones of miso bean paste and a touch of sweet cooking wine.

Red meat is grilled and served as steaks, or cut into chunks, lightly battered, and fried. It has a dark gamey taste somewhat like beef, but richer.

The tongue is sliced wafer thin and may be grilled, while fattier bits are made into whale bacon that, not surprisingly, tastes quite a bit like bacon.

"Whale is good because it's got a rather refreshing taste," a Japanese official said.

Whale has appeared on the menu at several receptions during the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission being held in this former whaling centre, sliced thinly and served raw as "Whale Carpaccio" or in more traditional stews.

Japan government pamphlets laud the health benefits of whale, citing its high protein levels - which made it a crucial food source for the country following its defeat in World War Two.

But with prices high and supplies low following Japan's adoption of a 1986 IWC moratorium on commercial whaling, it has become a pricey gourmet food.

With Japan's diet growing more western, whale chefs have gone to great pains to tempt the palates of young people more comfortable in McDonald's fast-food outlets than a traditional restaurant.

There is, of course, the whaleburger, invented by a Shimonoseki entrepreneur.

A recent whale cooking contest held in the city yielded recipes as diverse as whale spaghetti and Chinese-style stir-fry whale.

"I like whale," said taxi driver Eisaku Terakawa. "But it's too expensive. I really wish I could eat more."

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Reuters
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