Fine noses will find it very difficult with this delicacy from Iceland. Nevertheless, if you ignore the pungent smell, rotten shark is a delicacy on the island. During a holiday in Iceland it would be worth a bite. Maybe you'd better close your nose though.
Delicacy with tradition
The Greenland Shark, which makes up this delicacy, is edible because it is exposed for months to fermentation, a preservative method. This removes the natural poisons contained in the fish. The effect of this is that the meat tastes very intense of ammonia and smells very rotten. To describe the taste is difficult, because everyone describes it differently. From very smelly cheese to a combination of the nastiest tastes in one, they say. Nevertheless, Hákarl is the delicacy in Iceland.
...Of the Icelandic delicacy
The harsh climate of the island and the long winters made it necessary for meat or even fish to be dried, salted or even fermented. That was the only possibility to have something to eat during the cold months. The old methods have remained until today. After the Greenland shark is caught, it is gutted and deburred like any other fish. The urea present in the blood at this time makes the meat inedible. That's why it takes months for these to disappear from the flesh.
In the traditional preparation, the shark is placed in a pit of gravel or sand and weighted with a stone to get out the harmful liquids. After up to 12 weeks, the fish is hung up in a dry hut. The wind blowing through here is supposed to let the ammonia evaporate. However, this taste doesn’t go away completely. As a non-Icelander this smell and taste is something completely new and more than necessary to get used to it. After the process, only the white meat is eaten.
...For Iceland tourists
On a trip to Iceland, many tourists face the challenge of having tried these delicacies once in their lifetime. Despite the taste of the dried Greenland shark, it is healthy. Allegedly, it strengthens the immune system, lowers the cholesterol level and has an antioxidant effect. Nevertheless, this fish is often served with a strong brandy, because you should drink something immediately afterwards, otherwise you won’t endure the whole flavour for long. If you are ever loaded with a rotten shark meal, expect your clothes to have that unique, specific smell - even hours later.
Would you like to try this delicacy yourself on your holiday in Iceland? We say yes! Because if you want to fully experience the island, this taste belongs to it no matter what. If you still need help planning your holiday or renting a car in Iceland, we at IcelandReisen.info look forward to your request. In addition to the tasting highlights, such as a visit to a rotten shark museum, you can expect breathtaking scenic experiences.