Hip and trendy Oslo has some serious Scandinavian swag. The Norwegian capital city contains a seamless blend of historic settings, cosmopolitan shine, urban reinvention, and a twinge of grunge on the side.
Admittedly, I can’t say I “did” much during my brief visit to Oslo earlier this summer. I didn’t face off with The Scream nor stand next to the prow of the legendary schooner Fram. But I did do one thing to write home about…
I ate whale.
Now, all you animal rights activists, here me out.
I was not planning on getting a bite of the beloved sea mammal before I stepped into the Mathallen, Oslo’s modern food market that opened in 2012. Nonetheless, I was on a simple culinary mission: find something incredible and unique to eat for lunch.
I began with a precursory scouting round of Mathallen, which has a modest number of vendors selling specialty food items you’d expect in many upscale markets: heaps of cheese, local beers, Fair Trade goods, fresh-baked breads, imported Italian commodities, and tempting sweet treats. I thought the petite ice cream cones at the gelateria were particularly enchanting; they were just so cute! However, they couldn’t hold my attention long once I caught a whiff of the savory smells emanating from the Vulkanfisk Seafood Bar.
With a quick glance at the table of other diners, I was more than ready to splurge for seafood. Justin ordered the Fish Soup while I went for the Pepper Fried King Crab.
Oh. My. Goodness.
You guys! It was ah-mazing! I would go back to Oslo today just to have this meal again. Those delectable, saucy crab legs will certainly end up on my list of Best Eats of 2016! Maybe of all time!
But I know that’s not the culinary story you wanted to hear about… So, moving on!
After woofing down our delectable Norwegian chow, Justin sauntered over to the Vulkanfisk Shop counter to inquire about the Smoked Whale on display. This is when we met Simon Kvivik, a young chef who is passionate about great food and fine flavors. Simon proceeded to educate us on all-things-North-Sea, including giving insight into Norway’s whaling industry and the secrets to Norwegian salmon. Then, he offered us a taste of whale.
First, Simon gave us a piece of the smoked whale. In comparison to a slice of Ahi tuna, the smoked meat was darker and a more sturdy and it had a slight gaminess in flavor. Next, Simon sliced off a chunk of raw whale, which had an even more subtle flavor and a softer texture, something like Beef Carpaccio with a hint of fishiness. Overall, I wouldn’t say that I looooved whale meat. But I enjoyed it, and I wouldn’t shy away from it if given an opportunity to have it again.
Norway and Iceland are the only two countries allowed to hunt whale commercially, and Japan has a special “scientific” permit. Undeniably, whaling is a controversial issue, and this little story is not meant to stand on either side of the argument. I am simply grateful for Simon’s generosity of time and resources to share with us a very special taste of Norway.
Hallo everyone! Do you consider yourself an adventurous eater? Would you try whale if given the chance?