News from the Sparlock Multiverse

I Survived Hákarl

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.

4 Responses to I Survived Hákarl

  1. I never heard that, but it sounds like a horrible meal. How can you possibly eat a meal that tastes and smells like ammonia, if you don’t have to of course. lol. How brave of you to do this in the name of book research!

  2. Oh My. I’m not sure I could have brought myself to eat that… but I must say you have the guts to do that. Cheers…

  3. I’ve never had this food, but I’ve heard of other foods like it that people on youtube eat for eating challenges. The stuff looks absolutely disgusting and judging by their reactions, tastes disgusting as well.

  4. It’s definitely true, I learn something new almost every day and this is my first new thing for today! It really makes you wonder how people end up making these foods, eg how does one go from the first person who ever tasted the poisonous fresh meat of the Greenland shark (and possibly died from the experience) to people trying it again and finding a way of eating it safely even though it smells rank! Good on you for trying something new though, a lot of people wouldn’t. My own experience with strange foods is quite mild by comparison, Haggis is possibly the ‘strangest’ I have tried you might not even consider it a strange food but my tastebuds would rate haggis as delicious and not at all deserving of its bad reputation :)

Leave a reply