Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Nutria - Sous Vide

Nutria, also known as coypu, is a semi-aquatic rodent native to South America. However, it has been introduced into many parts of the world, primarily by fur ranchers, and has become a pest in the process. For example, nutria were introduced to Avery Island in Louisiana in 1937 from South America by E. A. Mcllhenny of Tabasco fame. Some escaped during a hurricane in 1940 and they quickly spread across the Southern U.S. causing havoc to marshlands. 
We saw this nutria near the Jordan River in Jordan, very near the border of Israel. 
They are currently a pest in the U.S. and a bounty is paid in an effort to eradicate them. In 1909 to 1910, bounties were paid for 445, 963 nutria at $5 each. 
The same nutria swimming in the Jordan River. We did not know what it was at first, the initial thoughts being a beaver, but the tail was like a rat instead of a beaver. 
Efforts have been made in areas to try and get people to eat nutria as part of the eradication effort. The meat is lean and low in cholesterol. In Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan nutria is sold in stores as "poor man's meat." Wikipedia notes that a Moscow restaurant, Krasnodar Bistro, sells nutria as burgers, hotdogs, dumplings or wrapped in cabbage leaves. It is catching on as part of the "foodie" and "localvore" craze.

I got some nutria back strap, loin and flank from Exotic Meat Market. We were sharing Thanksgiving with some friends at their house and they asked me to bring some "unusual meat" appetizers. So I decided to serve the nutria along with some lion which I blogged on in my previous post.
I brined and marinated the meat for 9 hours, primarily with the lion in mind (I did them together). I'm not sure that the nutria needed it, but the brining would certainly help to get rid of any swampy taste the nutria might have (see the brining/marinade recipe in my last post).
The nutria in the brine/marinade.
The nutria meat after brining. Note that most of the blood has been extracted and it has turned a white/gray color. 
I put the nutria in vacuum packed sous vide bags with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic and cooked it for 19 hours at 56 degrees centigrade. It did not need to cook that long, I did it primarily because I was cooking the lion that long. Some of the thinner meat pieces got a little mushy, a texture change when you sous vide too long. But the larger pieces were not mushy at all and I liked them the best. 
The sous vide bag with lots of minced garlic.
I believe this is a flank portion.
Cut up into smaller pieces for Thanksgiving appetizers.
There was no gamey taste whatsoever. It was very mild. All of the 12 guests at Thanksgiving ate some, not knowing what they were eating before-hand. Everyone liked it, most preferring it to the lion which we also ate. There is a layer of fat in the nutria, particularly the thicker pieces, and I think the nutria would be even better if the nutria was quickly fried to render and soften the fat. Otherwise, the texture and taste were great. 


  1. Five dollars each seems like a generous bounty. I'm astonished to read these are eatable!

  2. It's a little tough to get over the idea of eating a rodent. Not a meat I would necessarily seek out, but an interesting addition to the world diet.

  3. They eat that in Argentina in stews (if you are really poor). It isn't very good.