Want to try a little raw seal heart? For tasting notes, just ask Michaëlle Jean.
"It's like sushi," the Governor-General raved after biting into a bloody hunk of it Monday in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.
But ask any Inuit and they'll say it's more like seal liver, another delicacy from the threatened hunt Ms. Jean seeks to defend.
"Seal heart has some of the flavour of the seal meat itself, but it's a lot lighter in taste and, of course, the heart doesn't have any fat at all. It's firm," says Mary Simon, president of the Inuit Tapirit Kanatami, a national Inuit organization.
Considered the caviar of northern aboriginal cuisine, seal heart is usually given to the elders or eaten ceremonially, during potlatches or feasts, says Andrew George, culinary arts manager of Kla-how-eya Aboriginal Centre in Surrey, B.C.
"It has a very marine flavour," he says, though the very dark meat isn't overly salty.
Ms. Simon will often stuff seal heart with seasoned rice or bread. She also sautés it with onions and spices.
Mr. George has seen it both smoked and boiled.
But it's rare to see seal heart on restaurant menus, Iqaluit chefs say. They tend to stick to more common local fare such as caribou and Arctic char, though Québécois restaurants along the Gulf of St. Lawrence often put seal meat on the menu. Luc Jomphe, head chef at Bistro du Bout du Monde on L'Îsles de la Madeleine says his seal meat filet with chocolate sauce has diners coming back for more.
"After the people taste it they like it a lot. It's just an experience to try it, you can't have this everywhere." Which leaves us to wonder if Ms. Jean's experimental nibbling will influence her order the next time she's in La Belle Province.
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