Whale meat -- first-hand experiences?

Prompted by the current threads “Is fish ‘meat’ ?” (Cafe Society), and “Japanese Whaling” (Great Debates) – not wishing to hijack either of those, am starting a new thread. It is suggested in the “Japanese Whaling” thread, that the continuing taking of whales by Japan, stems from essentially “political” factors: that Japan has no long-standing tradition of eating whale meat – and according to one poster there, “Most Japanese people don’t even like whale, it’s foul and tasteless”.

Another poster there, claims that eating of whale in Japan came about as an emergency measure in the times of shortage, of World War II and after. A similar situation obtained in that era, in the UK: whale meat was available as a substitute for more-favoured sources of protein in short supply in those hard years. In the main, people didn’t like it – “foul and tasteless” perhaps too harsh a description; but British folk likened it to low-grade, fishy-tasting beef, and gladly forsook it when conditions improved: it didn’t catch on even as a minority taste. The thread which I cite below mentions wartime attempts to the same end, in the USA – which came to nothing. Whale meat seems to be a very hard sell to most of the world’s peoples.

Discussion in these threads has made me curious about whale meat, and wishful to try it. Using the board’s “search” function did not turn up much to satisfy this curiosity: though there was the brief thread from last year, “Question about 1950s Britain”, as below.

Googling “whale recipes” yielded a number of hits – some mickey-taking, some serious: the serious ones mostly expressing ethical reservations, and emphasising “if you can get the stuff”. Serious whale-cooking suggestions would appear to agree on the desirability of “heavy-duty” tenderising or marinating. A post in the “1950s Britain” thread concurs – opining that whale meat can be made palatable, but “you need some serious marinade”.

I get the picture that I’d have little chance, in the UK, of obtaining whale meat for cooking experiments with same. Would be interested to hear, from anyone who has sampled whale meat, their reactions / opinions concerning it.


Quite dark and tough, and fairly strongly flavoured. Yeah, it does need an awful lot of marinating to end up with not a whole lot except the taste of soy sauce. Not recommended.

Not the meat, but I tried some whale blubber, pickled in sour whey, when I visited Iceland some 30 years ago. It was quite good, a bit like mozzarella in taste and consistency. I don’t want a whale killed just so that I can have it again though.

I had some Minke whale as part of a tasting menu at a restaurantin Iceland. It was served quite rare and was similar in texture to rare steak. It was good, but not that notable beyond the knowledge that I was eating a forbidden food.

My gf tried Minke whale in Iceland and found it blah. She preferred the puffin, which was smoked. She passed on pony.

When i was 7 or 8(1967-8), I found whale meat on the supermarket shelves. The can was the oblong, peel off lid type like sardines or herring come in.

All I remember was the meat was dark red and strong tasting. I don’t remember it being tough.

I had some canned whale meat back in the early 1960s. I recall it being like dark, tough, strong tasting beef. I don’t recall any fishy taste.

I wouldn’t say it was as even good as some canned beef I’ve had, and there would be no reason to buy it other than the exoticness factor.

There is the allure of consuming a creature as intelligent as you are. :smiley:

Thanks for all reports from the whale-eating front. General impression got so far, is that I’m probably not missing very much.

Not something that I would myself go for; it’s the actual meat of the creature, that has piqued my interest.

Now, it’s puffin that I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to eat – they are birds which I find adorable.

I have now and again – only abstract-ly – fancied the idea of trying “long pig”, purely out of curiosity.

It’s pretty good IMO, but has a strong taste that is not to everyone’s liking.

(I’m French. We eat horses.)

Yeah, when I pointed that out to her she reminded me of my fondness for lamb and veal.

I would love to try horse sometime, but my gf has owned pet horses most of her life. No way for her.

I’e always been curious to try horse. If sufficiently interested, a visit to France should sort that out for me; but – am I right in this? – I have the impression that the horse-eating experience is less easily available in France nowadays, than it used to be.

Happily, there’s no-one in my life now, who would give me any problems re the eating of cute creatures. My ex totally refused even to consider eating rabbit – she found bunnies far too lovable.

Re puffins – I recall that a few years ago, the renowned irascible TV chef Gordon Ramsay did a programme on British television where he went to the Faroe Islands and cooked some of the local menu curiosities, including puffin. Concerning this last, there were screams of outrage in the UK from many nature-lovers. I was rather “meh” about it: I wouldn’t eat puffin myself, but it’s not my place to order other people around, vis-s-vis their gastronomic choices. Anyway, immense numbers of puffins nest in the Faroes – IMO, some can be spared for the table.

And the Faroes are also the scene of an annual operation – highly controversial these days – in which pilot whales are brought to the shoreline, and slaughtered there for food. For a Brit curious about sampling whale, perhaps a trip to the Faroes would be the answer…

It’s also commonly used in Finnish sausage meetvursti that’s eaten usually as cold cuts on bread. I always wonder how many international travelers have eaten horse in Finland without realizing it since those cold cuts are often part of a hotel breakfast here. It looks just like salami and doesn’t taste all that different either.

I’ve eaten raw horse.

I remember once on The Tonight Show, Doc Severinsen (who, IIRC, owned a horse farm) served Johnny Carson two hamburgers, one made with beef and the other made with ground horse meat. The only difference Carson noticed was that the horse meat was a little bit sweeter than beef.

They sell canned horsemeat in Russia (a bit like bully beef, I imagine). I might give it a try the next time I’m in Moscow.

I’m given to understand (how accurately, I don’t know) that in a number of parts of continental Europe (Italy, for one), salami often contains horse and / or donkey meat. Would be – as you tell of with the Finnish sausage – a case of eating horse without realising or distinguishing it.

I think I ate some whale in Moscow back in the 80s. It was like an inverted gammon steak, 95% fat with a thin rind of pink meat. Tasted very salty and slightly fishy, but the waiters wouldn’t tell us what it was.

As for horse, I eat that quite often as it makes a great chilli con carne. I get it from calais supermarkets every time we nip over to france. The odd thing is that most of it comes from the USA.

I’ve had whale a couple times in Iceland. My recollection of it is similar to Penfeather’s—it was rather tough, though the flavour was hard to discern as the restaurant had drenched it in black pepper. I wasn’t too impressed and wouldn’t go out of my way to have it again.

Puffin, on the other hand, is delicious. Tender, dark, and flavourful, like duck breast. Svið (singed sheep’s head) is also quite good, as are certain kinds of hákarl (putrefied shark) in moderation. (Skyrhákarl has a lovely texture and tastes like very strong white-rind cheese, but glerhákarl tastes like I expect any other rotten fish would.) Out of all the ethnic food to eat in Iceland, whale steak is near the bottom of my list.

Maybe they didn’t want to know what it was :dubious: ?

It’s that easy? Right – Calais here I come !

“Let’s ask Mangetout… he’ll eat anything!