Recognizing Horsemeat on Menus While Abroad
Horsing around with foreign menu language
Meat has gotten a little horsey lately, hasn’t it now? Ikea pulled its meatballs because they contained horsemeat, and prepared frozen meals in London like lasagna have also been discovered to contain our equine friends.
One might ask the question: Why is this suddenly popping up in the news now? Since horses are considered pets in most countries, perhaps we eschew the horror of wanting to discuss this matter until scandal forces us to look at the issue.
Nevertheless, horse has been consumed for a long time and is considered a delicacy in many countries, although some still disguise it because the perception is that horses somehow shouldn’t be consumed.
To help you figure out just what exactly you're ordering, The Daily Meal offers a rudimentary language primer on how to find horse on local menus in foreign countries, as the language can sometimes be confusing.
For example, if you were in Japan and were served basashi, you might just assume it was something exotic, but you are actually eating horse. Sakura is the Japanese word for raw horse meat, and baniku can mean horse meat as well.
"What are people doing about this confusion?" said Richard Marlow of Taunton, England, in an email to The Daily Meal. "Over here [in the U.K.] it’s not advertised at all because too many people see [horses] as pets. It would be a rare thing to see it openly advertised. The French, for example, list cheval as horse, and butchers are openly advertised. Their mentality is very much more advanced than ours when it comes to food. We should grow up as a nation and stop being so sentimental about what names Disney has given our pets/dinner."
But many countries around the world openly serve horsemeat and it's easy to spot on menus, if you know what words to look for. In Indonesia, horse satay is called sate kuda.
Cavallo, the word for horse in Italian, might be recognizable if you know your romance languages and can see the etymological association with cavalier, but your linguistic adroitness might fail you at sfilacci. Want to guess? That’s right: it's Italian for shredded, dried horse meat. Same with straecca (or in Venice, where horsemeat is particularly popular, straéca), which means horse steak. Look out for puledro, or colt, as well.
Luxembourgeois and Slovenians are accustomed to seeing horsemeat on their menus. You might shudder to hear "colt steak" while visiting Slovenian but then again when you see žrebičkov zrezek, maybe ignorance will be bliss.
Horsemeat is mixed with sausages in many countries and smoked in Norway and Sweden. Look for hamburgerkött in Sweden, which is horsemeat that is still called hamburger. Paardenrookvlees, Belgian Flemish and Dutch, is smoked horsemeat, while hestebiff is horse steak in Norway; häst biff in Sweden.
We can’t forget our little donkey friends either. Somaro and asino are the Italian words and âne is the French. Saucisson d’âne is common in the south of France, and donkey meat sauce is eaten in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, among other places.
Ultimately, it is always best to ask about menu items outright, as many are now doing with the horsemeat scandal. Horse could very well be on your menu now, and it’s best to be cognizant of the tricky language used. It just takes a modicum of horse sense.