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How does one serve canned whale?

We've acquired some canned whale meat - so it's pre-cooked. Now we want to find out the best way of preparing it.
First thoughts were something like crabcakes - except surely this would resemble meat rather than fish.
A number of searches suggest it's similar to horse meat (which doesn't really help much).
Does anybody have any inspired ideas? Preferably from experience.

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  1. Can't help much, but can't help sharing this as well...

    When I was about 8, my dad bought a can of whale (it wasn't long after he bought a can of chocolate covered ants...).
    Although everyone in my family tasted it, no one wanted to eat it. Everyone detested it, even good ol' dad.
    Not wanting to *totally* waste it, he plopped it into the dog's dish. Even the dog turned his nose up at it, a first!

    OK, I don't know what kind of can of whale that was, I hope yours is much better.

    1. How does one serve canned whale?
      Why on your very best Royal Doulton, of course. My dear.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Gio

        That's my favourite answer so far.

      2. First I have to ask, where did you find canned whale meat?

        I have only had raw whale meat, a very long time ago, partially frozen, lots of blubber. So this would be quite different than canned pre-cooked whale meat. It was served straight, as is the tradition, so it was a pure whale meat experience. I am glad I tried it, but I must admit I have not been actively seeking out another chance to partake.

        Re: Canned whale meat. The way I see it , you have 2 options. 1. Go for the straight on experience and eat it right out of the can, so you can experience whale meat first hand. 2. (my preferred option) Dress the stuff up as best as you can to make it as appetizing as any canned meat can be. The comparison to horse meat is reasonable, so anything you might use canned beef for should work. Dress it up in a vinaigrette for a meat based salad. Throw it into a soup or stew. Some kind of variation of chicken or canned ham salad? Filing for a savoury crepe could work, with a bechamel sauce.

        Good luck! I would not expect a culinary masterpiece. Have back up plans. Get really drunk first. And please please please! Post and let us know how it went! And if you can include pictures, that would be awesome!

        8 Replies
        1. re: moh

          It came directly from Japan - hand carried!
          It's Minke whale and there are two versions - one was boiled and the other roasted (both before canning).
          Having already eaten whale steak (which was similar in texture to tuna, but not in the slightest bit fishy - more like veal) I already know that I can grill a whale steak - but this 'preprocessed' version needs to be made as attractive as possible for the invitees. If we're going to eat it - let's at least make an effort to produce the best version we can.
          I thought about a pizza version - but what accompaniments.
          Hadn't thought of bechamel - but did think of some kind of burrito (I know - that would be better for horse!).
          And we do aspire to a masterpiece - to fail valiantly would be a disappointment, but we do want to make this as appetizing as possible - it's worth putting some effort into making it both tasty and memorable.

          1. re: estufarian

            Seriously now, I would poach the roasted in a teriyaki sauce and would quick broil the boiled, also with a thick teriyaki glaze. Slice both thinly and serve with Japanese rice and Japanese sides.

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              I like Sam's riff on Japanese, seeing as how that is the origin of the meat. Teriyaki is a forgiving sauce, it makes many things edible and attractive, it'll give a nice colour to the meat. Since it is already cooked, I would be careful about overcooking it. The poaching method is fairly forgiving, as is the quick broil. Lots of ginger, ginger freshens up tastes and may help to hide the canned quality of the meat. Perhaps even serve some of the thin slices on sushi rice like you would eel.

              1. re: moh

                Yes, Teriyaki seems a good start. But I think rice will make the dish visually pretty bland - brown & white. It needs some color. Root veggies aren't really in yet - although corn might work. Of course blue/green (mostly green) might suggest the ocean - but make the dish a bit too gimmicky. Any other thoughts?

                1. re: estufarian

                  The "sides" mentioned included such stuff as grated daikon and carrot salad; blanched spinach salad; top the served fish with cut chives or thin bias sliced green onions; green and whitish cucumber salad; dish with ume; plus the whale can be served on a bed of beansprouts, thin strips of carrot, and snow peas!

                  We Japanese pay a lot af attention to presentation. The idea of serving brown and white would never, ever occur to us. I assumed that presentation was a given in my reply above.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Whale pot pie with a green salad

                      Baked Whale

                      As to presentation, there are some in this article that warns agains eating it.

                      "Dr. Payne, who has led over 100 expeditions to all oceans and studied every species of whale in the world, has warned that the highest concentration of endocrine disrupting compounds ever found in any animal came recently from a minke whale"

                      But I suppose it's like tuna ... as long as you don't eat it ever day ... or are pregnant ... or a kid ... or elderly.

                      This article, with no recipes but some ideas like curry, says Japan has whale trucks ... like taco trucs ... where you can buy whale boxed lunches

                      If you can read Japanese

                      The bigger question ... what is the correct drink pairing for whale?

                      1. re: rworange

                        Thanks - that's great! Hmm. Whale Bacon & Quail Eggs (where's Dr Seuss when you need him?)
                        I'm thinking of serving wines from the (Wh)Alexander Valley!

          2. With an apology.

            I ate whale in Iqaluit (wayyy up north in Canada, on Baffin Island) and it was supposed to be a big treat, at least it was to my host family. I threw up in my mouth a little as I tried to eat it. It was gamy and oily tasting (to me) with a gummy texture. I think, however, the kind I was served was the "aged" kind - a bit fermented.

            The only thing I can think of is perhaps a stew.

            2 Replies
            1. re: MrsCris

              MrsCris, that is a very fair description of the experience.

              1. re: MrsCris

                This fermented type of whale was on a "Bizarre Foods: episode available on YouTube.

                I could tell it was, uh ... delicious.

              2. in 1997 I went to Tromso in the Norwegian Arctic for a football match (and yes it was freezing cold in October with lots of snow). Anyway I digress. My friends and I went to a pub on a side street and on the menu was Whale Lasagne. I couldn't bear to try it but one of my friends did and announced it was delicious.

                1. There is a recipe for "Whale Steak Stew (a big strong caveman's dish)" in _Leone's Italian Cookbook_--basically a hearty stew with whale meat, onions, peppers, Italian spices, a little tomato paste, served with garlic bread.

                  1. Since you mentioned the similarity to veal, I immediately thought about blanquette de veau.
                    This recipe is simpler than most, and a half quantity would work if you have just one can. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jayt90

                      Thanks for the suggestion - don't think it will work this time as this is pretty substantial and we will probably use this as part of a multi-course tasting meal (too risky to just have whale as the only protein - need some alternatives in case it's a disaster: we followed the same strategy for a beaver dinner not too long ago - didn't want to risk only having the beaver - of course, the beaver was the best part of the meal!).

                    2. I have a copy of "Making the Most of Your Food Freezer", 1951. The author relays that the meat most resembles venison in appearance & texture with a slight fish flavor due to the mammal's diet. The book deals only with fresh (from your new food freezer of course) whale meat and includes recipes for stroganoff, whale meat a la essipoff, and steaks. She recommends marinating the meat with lemon juice or baking soda to remove the fish flavor. She also suggests cooking it with beef suet for improved flavor.

                      Please keep us posted on your preparation!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: meatn3

                        The 'big' day is a couple of weeks away. Still open to suggestions but thinking hard about textures.
                        I presume your cookbook is the one by Marie Essipoff . But no data on the "a la Essipoff:" treatment. Is that specific recipe any good?

                        1. re: estufarian

                          Yes, that is the author. I haven't cooked from the book - I enjoy the time capsule-like examination of a time when a food freezer was novel enough to require instruction/guidelines.


                          "The recipe calls for layering cleaned/rinsed strips of meat in a non-reactive container with sliced onions and peppercorns. Cover with an oil/vinegar/slt/pepper marinade and let stand at least 24 hours. When ready to cook remove onions and reserve. In a chicken fryer melt enough lard to prevent the ground beef suet (several Tb.) from burning. Add more lard as needed to keep suet from drying out. Brown the whale meat on all sides. add a little water, cover tightly. Reduce to a simmer - let cook...
                          Now slowly fry the reserved onions in 3 Tb. butter/margarine. Disolve 4 bouillon cubes in 3 cups hot water, pour over the onions, stir. Allow to blend, taste, season. Thicken with cornstarch or flour. Pour over whale meat. Cover & cook to "blend". Serve with a starch such as potatoes, rice, pasta.

                          If you don't care for the marinade it can be rinsed off & fresh onions fried."

                          Sounds a bit salty to me...

                          More info: Steaks are cut thin, tenderized & treated like minute steaks. She writes that whale works well in pot roast, stew and kedgeree recipes. Chili too. Claims mushrooms have an affinity for whale meat and that it accepts any seasoning nicely.

                          She really likes whale meat, mentions it throughout the book! Repeatedly notes it should be marinated and cooked with beef suet.

                          Interesting note: she says this makes a fine dog or cat food. She comments that horse meat is becoming scarce...infers that whale meat is a better option.

                      2. Where does one acquire canned whale?

                        1. meatn3: " In a chicken fryer melt enough lard to prevent the ground beef suet (several Tb.) from burning."

                          lard AND suet? what a different era. I can't even find suet and certainly don't eat enough beef to render it myself.

                          estu: I also received (with a bit of horror) a can of whale from a friend returning from Japan and am very curious how yours turns out. I'd never buy it, but now it's here and waste not want and all.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: hill food

                            Yes, they liked their arteries well lubed...

                            That is what I love about these old cookbooks. They really capture very specific moments in time.

                            1. re: meatn3

                              OT: yeah I love my old Joy of Cooking that tells me how to dress squirrel. or what to do with a freshly shot pheasant (hang it on a cool porch for a few days before plucking).

                              1. re: hill food

                                I believe it's traditional to hang the pheasant by the neck - when the body falls (i.e. the neck has decayed enough) it's ready to eat!
                                But pheasant was one of my worst food memories - one of the few foods I just couldn't eat.
                                And Joy of Cooking didn't have a recipe for python either. (Yes we served it with Viña Monty).

                          2. The results were excellent.
                            We actually had 4 different cans (of varying sizes). The first picture shows all 4 cans. From top we had boiled fin whale, boiled minke whale, roasted minke whale (left bottom) and a different roast minke (bottom right).
                            We served these as a “mystery Japanese course” in a tasting menu of around 10 courses for 10 people. The basic preparation was done the day before, so we were able to taste each style and finalize the preparation. Incidentally, all 4 cans tasted great by themselves, with the appearance and flavour being somewhat similar to a beef bourguinon and the different meat having a similar texture, although some was very tender (almost flaky) while others had more resistance to the tooth (al dente?) – but none were chewy. The two roast minke had slightly different flavours: one was sesame and lighter, while the other was sweeter and a hint of teriyaki. We decided to combine these two cans in a teriyaki presentation, which gave more complexity of textures.
                            So we had 3 different presentations (again, picture below) on the same plate. Top right was the teriyaki, warmed in the oven and served on a round of daikon (for contrasting texture) and baby carrots (both texture and color).
                            Moving clockwise, (bottom left) was a ‘sort-of-sushi’ presentation. This was done as we felt that most attendees would ‘expect’ sushi on a Japanese platter. Of course, as the meat (fin whale) was pre-cooked (boiled) it wasn’t really sushi – just a similar presentation. The rice was hand-formed, but we had difficulty getting it to stay intact so that it could be lifted and eaten with the fingers – it tended to fall apart. So we hit on the idea of serving it in a ceramic soup-spoon, to avoid the crumbling. Then the rice tended to stick to the spoon, so we ended up cutting a piece of nori to go under the rice, which served to add both color and texture and also did the job of preventing the rice sticking. Overall it worked well. The final dish (boiled minke) was actually served as an individual ‘mini-pizza’. A thin burrito wrap was cookie-cuttered into rounds and covered with a peanut/satay sauce. Various ingredients e.g. bean sprouts, cilantro, onions were added and then topped with the cut-up minke. And the whole baked in the oven – which crisped up the ‘burrito’ crust.
                            All-in-all a great success – 9 of the 10 attendees finished everything, with only 1 having misgivings.

                            And if we didn’t use your specific suggestion – we actually had various other ingredients standing by – only after a preliminary tasting did we finally decide on each presentation, and it was the texture as much as anything that decided the final presentation (e.g. the tenderness of the meat was too similar to pasta, so that potential dish was abandoned).
                            And there was no trace of fishiness in any of the items, nor was there any chewiness (which I’m guessing people recall from tasting blubber – but we just had the meat).

                            And not to forget the wine. Given the positioning within the meal we decided on an older, lower-tannin red (the previous course had a Bordeaux and the next course had Rhone red) and served a 1967 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou (level bottom-neck) which went perfectly. This wine had softened and developed its secondary characteristics while losing its tannin, so all the fruit was in the aromatics, while the taste was more spicy-cedary. So there’s the perfect match if anybody wants to try something similar!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: estufarian

                              Estufarian, what a great report! It is surely a credit to your cooking skills that everything was well-received. And I love the labels on the cans.

                              Knowing that 1967 Ducru-Beaucaillou is a perfect match for canned whale - priceless...

                            2. How very exciting!! The dishes you prepared sound absolutely wonderful and reflect the care you took with each dish. Your guests must have been very suprised to eat such exotic fare. Many thanks for the report. I loved reading it. Although, I'm wondering what misgivings your recalcitrant guest had.