Seal meat is known to be rich in iron and Omega 3 and low in fat. Inuits have eaten it raw, with the fatty parts too, for countless years. Hunters in the East of Canada have also appreciated it in stew or braised form for a long time.
But now it is being served up in trendy big city restaurants by chefs who market its traditional dish aspect. It can typically be seen in terrine paté or served as rare steak. Its taste is described as being something between duck magret and veal liver.
Benoît Lengnet, the French chef of “Au Cinquième Péché”, a restaurant in Montreal, first added it to his menu two years ago, but says it has become much more popular lately. He appreciates its strong but subtly iodised taste and its unique texture. It is served in season only, which means from the end of March to the end of April. His preferred technique is to season it with truffle oil, and according to his estimates, orders of seal meat represent half of all the entrees ordered during its availability.
Luc Jomphe is the head chef of "Bistro du bout du Monde", also in Montreal, and he considers seal meat to be “a product of exception and it is in ever-increasing demand.” He was one of the first chefs to use seal in a gastronomic setting. He prefers to use the “Longe”, which is taken from the animal’s back, and serve it medium-rare, rather like a duck magret, accompanied by a cocoa sauce.
There are not that many restaurants which serve seal meat, although their numbers are increasing. This is partially because of the bad press seal meat gets from animal rights groups, but also because of the very small quantities available. Only 1 thousand of the estimated 330 thousand seals from this year’s hunt will be sold for their meat.
Also, it has to be conditioned in specialised butchers’ premises controlled by strict legislation, such as that of M. Vigneau, a long-time fan of seal meat. This hikes up the price too, compared to meat prepared on the coast by hunters. But he sees a growing future for his business, which produces walnut-wood smoked seal terrine patés, aromatised patés using apples, raisins and oranges, sausages and barbecue skewers.
If he’s right, seal hunters may soon have a new market to exploit. At a time when sealskin prices are falling (around 15 dollars per skin), gastronomic use of seal meat, which sells at around 30 dollars a kilo, depending on the cut, is looking more and more like a profitable option.
(Source : Orange News, France.)