Hippos are large, powerful but seemingly benign-looking animals and when it comes to their meat, they can be quite the delicacy!
While hippo meat is scarce, owing to a few factors that we will discuss in detail below, it is still considered to be one of the best exotic game meats in the world.
It has superb marbling and a better overall texture compared to other animal meat and can be cooked in many ways too.
What does hippo meat taste like? Hippo meat has a mild flavor with gamey undertones. It can be best compared to beef but is better and more flavorful than regular cow meat. Hippo meat is cooked in the same way as lamb or beef but is very hard to find, especially in the mainstream market.
Read below to learn more about hippo meat, why it is so rare, how it’s used in different regions, and the best ways to cook it!
Hippo Meat Vs Beef
One of the main reasons why hippo meat is so rare is because it is just too difficult to obtain. They might not look scary but hippopotamuses are extremely powerful and dangerous animals, especially when enraged.
Even equipped with a rifle, you would have to be extremely cautious when hunting this beast.
They are known to take down large predators with ease and have a very, very strong jaw that can exert several hundred pounds of force—enough to easily crush bone!
It would make sense that this animal would present as a challenge for game hunters—and it has, for many, many years!
Humans have been hunting and eating hippo meat for centuries. There is even archeological evidence that suggests that hippo meat was very popular in early human civilization.
However, as we have already established, hunting this animal is no easy feat so it would also make sense that its farming would be very limited due to the sheer manpower.
This difficulty is one of the reasons why we settled on domestic cattle and broiler chickens as our main source of meat.
These smaller animals are easy to put down and their meat provides more or less the same nutrition. However, when it comes to the flavor of meat, hippo meat will easily dwarf the flavor of what we are usually used to eating at home.
Hippo meat has been described by many people to be like beef but better in every way. It has more visible marbling, it caramelizes better and it has a mild but distinctly gamey flavor that shares some flavor notes with ground beef.
Generally, hippo meat is very thick, yet it has a satisfyingly chewy texture compared to other types of four-legged animal meat.
Furthermore, even though the meat contains arguably more meat fibers, it cooks the same way as beef or lamb.
Is Hippo Meat Legal?
Another big reason why hippo meat is so scarce, especially in America, is because of its status as an endangered species—which makes the commercial distribution of its meat also illegal. But it wasn’t always like this.
Surprisingly, hippo meat was extremely close to replacing beef and becoming a staple in North America during the turn of the 20th century!
Historians have noted that the lack of availability of Bisons, due to overhunting, caused the American people to look for alternate sources of meat.
So, naturally, we looked at larger animals that could sustain the huge and ever-increasing demand for meat.
It turns out that hippos topped the list for potential substitutes. However, there was a huge and dangerous problem: people weren’t willing to go after animals that put their own lives at stake.
However, this isn’t to say that hippo meat is illegal all over the world.
South Africa is known to have relaxed laws when it comes to selling meat of exotic animals. Hippo meat is available in the African region but even there, it is a rare treat.
Its meat is seen more as a celebratory feast in certain cultures within the region.
When hippo meat goes on sale, it sells extremely fast and many people thoroughly enjoy and prefer the taste of hippo meat over other animals.
Texture And Flavor Of Hippo Meat
Visually and texturally, you wouldn’t be able to tell between hippo meat and beef on a plate but upon closer inspection, you will realize that hippo meat has deeper marbling and has a firm texture compared to beef.
Hippo meat can take a lot of time to render and has a generous mixture of muscle and a good portion of fat in almost every part of the animal.
Compared to beef, hippo meat has a much more gamey flavor and while it will taste similar to beef, many people who have tried it claim that it has a much better after taste and bite.
How To Cook Hippo Meat
Hippo meat can be cooked in several ways. Here are some methods to cook this animal:
Hippo meat is notoriously thick and can take several hours to completely render and tenderize over an open fire.
Slow cooking is preferred for this type of meat as it thoroughly cooks the meat from the outside-in while also tendering and releasing its fat.
You can even try marinating the meat using tenderizers, which will only help shave off about one hour of cooking time compared to if you cooked the meat without it.
Grilling hippo meat is a common practice in South Africa. It is one of the best ways to enjoy hippo meat as it allows the meat to catch on a beautiful sear, color, and caramelization.
Thin cuts of hippo meats are best when broiling as it enables the meat to char and cook thoroughly. The meat slices can then be paired with spicy seasonings and are usually consumed with a side of bread or rice.
Hippo meat cut in cubes is another great way to enjoy this animal and its gamey meat. If you have ever had lamb BBQ then you can compare the flavor of the meat to charred lamb but with a slightly more pronounced flavor.
The meat is cut into cubes and is marinated with yogurt, spices, and herbs and is then put on skewers and cooked over coals or wood. The result is succulent pieces of meat that can be paired with many other side recipes too.
Frying isn’t a common practice when it comes to hippo meat, given its thick consistency, but the meat can still be cut in thin slices and fried with or without batter.
While it isn’t known to be served in stir-frys, it is usually cooked in fat and served over rice or salads.
Stews are another great way to enjoy hippo meat. The meat is first sliced into small cubes and is then fried for several minutes and then paired with aromatic herbs, ginger garlic, whole spices, onions, tomatoes, and yogurt.
The meat is also usually boiled in the same pot after it has been fried to tenderize it, which further releases its fatty flavor into the stew!
Boiling hippo meat (with bones) along with salt, spices, and herbs is a very common way to extract its flavor and to create a very strong-tasting broth.
The broth can be used in many ways but is usually used in soups and sauce recipes. Hippo bone broth can also be reduced to enhance and concentrate its flavor.
Raw rice can be added to the broth and cooked using a reduction method to create a spicy and delicious rice dish.
Just like you would cook beef or lamb, hippo meat can also be roasted in different ways. The meat is usually marinated using spices and tenderizers before it is roasted for several hours.
This allows the meat to soak in all the flavors and become even more succulent! Villagers will usually roast hippo meat over open pits or brick ovens.
The type of wood used to cook the meat also imparts a subtly sweet and delicious flavor that pairs perfectly with a range of side dishes.
Dangers Of Sourcing Hippo Meat
Since hippo meat is very hard to find, especially in North America, you should never trust unknown vendors or illegal channels when it comes to sourcing authentic hippo meat.
There have been numerous cases of anthrax poisoning due to bacterial infections in diseased animals.
Dead hippos are usually harvested for their meat but will more likely than contain deadly pathogens that may lead to disastrous health problems.
For example, there have been many reported deaths in South Africa due to the consumption of dead hippo meat.
Hippos usually die of various diseases unless they are vaccinated—which is a common practice in the legalized meat industry of today.
If a hippo is unfortunate enough to catch a bacterial disease, it will put the consumption of its meat at risk too.
Couple this fact with questionable cooking methods along with consuming undercooked meat and the result can be fatal, as is already well-documented by many health agencies in South Africa.
Since South Africa exports screened and approved meat to many countries, you are better off importing it yourself from reputable and official sources than purchasing it from unknown parties within the USA.
Even though hippo meat is known to taste great, it is not worth putting one’s life at stake!
Now that you know what hippo meat tastes like, where it is available, and how it is cooked, here are a few great related questions for this animal and its meat!
Is hippo milk available and drinkable?
Since hippos are mammals, they produce rich and nutritious milk for their offspring.
However, even though hippo milk is completely drinkable it is rarely available for a simple reason: it is extremely hard to milk a hippo for human consumption!
They are dangerous animals that cannot be domesticated as many people have tried and failed. Hippos kill a large number of people each year which adds to the difficulty of milking these mammals for commercial use.
Can hippo meat be bought online?
Hippo meat is extremely rare to find, especially in regions where it is considered illegal. We wouldn’t recommend that you purchase hippo meat online.
There is a myriad of problems associated with buying game meat from unknown sources. The biggest concern is health-related as there is no way to determine the quality of the meat unless you get it inspected by a professional.
Can hippo meat be minced like beef?
Yes, hippo meat can also be minced.
There aren’t many indications on what part of the animal is the best tasting when it comes to minced meat but many people say that the mid-section is a good place to start as it contains a well-balanced mix of muscle and fat.
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