Sunday, September 12, 2010
So, I ate Whale...
I know many of you out there may get a little angry about this, but I ate whale at a Kaiten Sushi restaurant the other night.
The hunting of whales has been a controversial issue for years, but over the past couple years it has gotten more coverage with the help of the hit show, "Whale Wars." I admit I enjoyed watching the show when I was back home and I find myself siding with the anti-whaling movement. This may sound a bit hypocritical considering my recent meal, but I'll explain.
First, I want address the idea of whale and hunting whale in Japan... I'm not an expert and you could find more information regarding the issue through more credible sites, but what I have is the experience of conversing about this topic with a couple of Japanese people.
One thing I would like to make very clear is that not ALL Japanese are for hunting whales or eating whales. The conversation I had was regarding why Americans are so against the hunting of whales. I then had to explain that it wasn't Americans, but more a couple of organizations with a strong international support. I explained a little more, but will save you the boring verbiage. After I explained the loop hole in International Whaling that the Japanese whaling ships are taking advantage of, the man understood why it was that so many people are so strongly against the hunting of whales. He explained to me that, whale meat really wasn't anything all that great and doesn't see why it was worth hunting.
At the time I did not understand what he was talking about as I had not eaten whale meat, but now I understand.
This is Whale Nigiri Sushi.
Before going grocery shopping, me and my supervisor stopped at a fairly popular Kaiten Sushi. Kaiten Sushi is conveyor belt sushi. Many of you already know, but for those that don't here is a picture.
The way it works, is that on the conveyor belt, fresh made sushi of all sorts of varieties go around a circle. They color code the plates and based off of the colors, the prices vary. As you pile up your plates, so does your bill. Kind of dangerous as you don't realize how much you're really eating, since you only eat two roles or nigiris at a time.
Well, as I sat down at my seat, my supervisor points out that the dark, red, beef looking sushi is Whale. Automatically, this catches my attention. I begin to think about my own feelings about whaling and those of my friends back home... But, curiosity is a hell of a thing. Now, if it were only curiosity that got the best of me, I don't feel I could look anyone in the face, but there were a couple of other reasons for my desire to try the dish.
First, I thought back to the conversation I had with the Japanese man and wondered if what he said was true. When, thinking about how much the Japanese go after the whale meat I wondered if it's some for of Sea Food Ambrosia and the absolute deliciousness of the meat has grabbed the hearts of many Japanese...
Secondly, as I mentioned, my own curiosity as to whether the meat really is so tasty that it's worth hunting for.
With these thoughts in my mind, I grabbed a plate of Whale Meat Sushi... As grabbed it with my chopsticks and dipped it in the soy sauce, I started to imagine what it would taste like. Oddly enough, it looks like raw beef, so I was starting to think that it would taste like raw beef. I took a bite and started to chew... And it tasted pretty good. The meat was very soft and didn't have the irony taste of raw beef. After eating the second piece of sushi, I kind of thought about the taste a little more and I understood what that Japanese man was talking about. The meat tastes good, but is no where near the delicious taste that warrants the hunting of such an incredible animal.
As my mind has been made up regarding the meat, I began to grab plate after plate of sushi until my supervisor pulls out the menu and points to a bowl of soup. He says, "This is whale soup. Would you like to try it? It's pretty good." Again, the same questions come up regarding whale meat, but this time I wonder, what if the meat is normally eaten cooked rather than raw? So, I agree.
Whale Meat Soup
A few minutes after ordering the soup the waitress arrives with two bowls of Whale Soup. At first the soup looks like a normal Japanese style soup, but slightly more oily. The soup has the typical vegetables and then the Whale Meat. Picture above is the whale meat being held by the chop sticks. It still has it's skin on it, so it was a little strange looking. I took a bite and it was actually quite tough, kind of the same texture as squid, but much more rubbery. The soup I have to admit, I was not a big fan of. The whale fat was quite over whelming and it tasted as if I was eating nothing but fat.
With, both Whale Dishes completed, I can say with confidence that the taste of the meat is not so amazing that it is worth hunting for. There is tons and tons of Fish that taste way way way better than Whale meat.
Anyway, if any of you have questions please feel free to post.
I wanted to add something I failed to mention above. There was one major reason I decided to try the dish. I truly believe that one of the best ways to understand and experience another country`s culture is through the food they eat. Japan is known for it`s seafood and this is truly part of it`s culture. There are many dishes that those of us outside of Japan may find strange or inedible, but these are perfectly edible and delicious to the Japanese. It is through these types of experiences with food that I believe you can make a connection with the people of another country. Though whale meat is a controversial dish, it is still something I felt was worth trying inorder to continue my own personal study of the Japanese culture.