I have learned a lot from doing research for the Sparlock Saga. This has led me to try one of the world’s strangest foods.
It’s too early to say how hákarl fits into to the Sparlock multiverse, but I wanted to explain my experience with this unusual food.
Hákarl is fermented shark meat from Iceland. Traditionally, hákarl is buried in the ground for about six to twelve weeks and then hung to dry for several months. The result is a food with with a strong ammonia-like smell and fishy taste.
I have been careful with my choice of words thus far. I don’t want to be too shocking to the innocent reader who is just passing by. However, if you are still reading this, you might be ready for a more colorful description. Many who have tried it consider it appropriate to replace the adjective fermented with putrefied. It’s also worth noting that a strong ammonia like smell is really an euphemism for “smells like piss.”
Chef Anthony Bourdain said that hákarl is “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he has ever tried.
By now, you are probably wondering why anybody would process a food in this manner.
I’m sure it’s a lot of fun for Icelanders to offer this “delicacy” to tourists and then watch their reactions, but that has nothing to do with the origins of the dish. It was simply a matter of survival. Fresh meat from the Greenland shark is poisonous. It has high concentrations of urea and trimethylamine oxide. The fermenting process makes it edible.
My opinion is that the smell is worse than the taste. The texture is firm, and I didn’t find the flavor to be unpleasant. The worst part is an ammonia after taste that lingers for a considerable amount of time afterward.
If you have ever sampled hákarl or any other unusual foods, please share you experience in the comments section.