Anyone for Rigor Mortis?
So you’ve been to the Blue Lagoon, done the Golden Circle and had the mother of all hangovers, but did you (intentionally) forget to try Iceland’s pièce de résistance , Hákarl ? And resist it you will because hákarl, aka rotten shark, smells like a men’s loo; a potent parfum of urine and toilet duck that leaves you gagging and gasping.
Hákarl is Iceland’s answer to foie gras, truffles and caviar, for this is a delicacy here and arguably the national dish (though the tourist board would like you to think it’s tourist-friendly skyr ).
Just as foraging for fungi and massaging sturgeons’ nether regions is highly
enjoyable skilled, so is the fine art of making hákarl. First, find yourself a Greenlandic shark and cut the flesh up into big strips. Then dig a pit on a gravel beach, far, far away from the nearest house, and throw the meat into the hole. Cover it up and leave it to decompose for anything up to 3 months. “Why would anyone want to do that?!!” I hear you scream. Well, sharks store their waste inside their body for complicated scientific reasons and as such their flesh has a high level of urea (that’s wee-wee to you and me). So letting it fester slowly under a cold beach will drain away all those nasty fluids and is a fitting punishment for such a vicious beastie (pictured right) that eats up Iceland’s cod stocks.
It’s not finished yet. Next you exhume the shark corpses, wash them (thank heaven for small mercies……) and hang the strips up to dry for up to 4 months. At the end of this the meat has a callousy thick brown crust around it which you need to slice off, and then cut the yellowy-white glutinous flesh into tiny tempting morsels……
Eaten on dainty toothpicks (as demonstrated by native left), it’s a bit like tasting cheese. Rather mature cheese in fact, left out for a few weeks and on to which the cat may have relieved itself. Eating hákarl also makes you finally understand how people can drink Brennivín , this being the only thing strong enough to alleviate the
pain taste. But if you can get over the smell and how it’s made, hákarl doesn’t really taste like munching on a cadaver. Trust me –there are far worse things to eat in Iceland.