One of the products I tried at SENA 2023 was Antarctic krill meat from a Ukranian company. After a small sample mixed into a spread on crackers, I was intrigued. The group were nice enough to give me a complementary tin of their Aquamarine brand krill meat in water. Since that day, this tin has been sitting in my pantry waiting until I mustered up the courage to try one of the strangest seafood products yet.
What is Krill?
Krill is a small crustacean at the bottom of the food chain that feeds fish, whales and everything in between. It is creatures like krill that give salmon, char and steelhead their distinctive pink to orange meat. Krill are found all over the ocean but the species Euphausia superba, Antarctic krill, is the largest, and are found in huge concentrations. These tiny arthropods are incredibly nutritious and have recently been branded a “superfood”. A serving of krill is very high in protein, contains healthy fatty acids including omega-3s, and is very low calorie.
Krill is harvested, processed and canned on large factory ships in cold Antarctic waters. The tiny animals are harvested with fine mesh plankton nets, but great care must be taken to make sure the catch is not damaged when bringing aboard. The krill must be processed within just a couple hours or enzymes will start breaking them down and ruining the catch. The Antarctic krill fishery is mainly focused on bait, fish food for aquariums and oil. My coworkers use whole frozen krill as a snack for the fish and lobsters in our aquarium and science center.
A minor portion of the total catch is for direct human consumption, some of it in the form of shrimp paste. This internationally regulated fishery is considered sustainable by Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
About Aquamarine Brand Krill
KrillUSA is the company behind Aquamarine Krill Meat. They are headquartered in the US but originate in Ukraine and use Ukrainian flagged vessels to produce their tinned krill. The company’s website highlights the health benefits of their tinned krill and also has a blog with recipes and health articles. As a former student of Russian/Ukrainian history, it was really fun talking to their staff at the Seafood Expo North America, and poignant in light of the ongoing conflict.
The intense aroma of shrimp fills the air when you peel back the lid. The actual krill is minced, and water is added, which I drained and gave to my cat. You can discern parts of the animals and the little black eyes. I tried a little out of the tin and it was very “shrimpy” but since they are minced, didn’t have the right texture. All the little hard bits of chitin remined me of eating canned minced crabmeat. Not exactly a great first impression. I recently learned that krill exoskeletons have high concentrations of fluorides and need to be shelled for human consumption. the hard pieces I experienced were most likely little bits from the swimming legs and other small parts.
Preparing Aquamarine Krill Meat
I wish I looked at their website for a recipe. Instead, I attempted to make a version of the canapes I tried at KrillUSA’s booth. I mixed the krill meat with salt, pepper, fresh dill and sour cream and spread it on toast. At the last minute I topped the toasts with pickles and fresh tomato, all I was missing was ice cold vodka. This had a lot of potential, but I failed in the execution, which is why there is no recipe posted. If I used cream cheese and just a dab of sour cream, it would have come out much better. Instead, I got a bland, slightly shrimpy trainwreck of a lunch. My bad.
I’ve been mulling this for days before finishing this post because I am both intrigued by the ingredient, supportive of the company, but I did not do a good job sampling a $10 tin of krill. The company is really focusing on the health benefits, but the really bold “shrimp” flavor is where I would focus. I think this tinned krill meat would be ideal in stocks and sauces. It truly packs a lot of shrimp flavor in a small tin without a ton of salt or any additives. This could do wonders to a homemade ramen broth or anything that needs a shrimpy umami kick.
Think about how much salt is in the flavor packet of your favorite instant ramen. With a small effort you could use a tin of this krill to make a stock so flavorful you will never use that shiny pouch of chemicals ever again. Aquamarine tinned krill meat is worth a try for a flavorful source of high protein and fatty acids, in a tiny low-calorie package.