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For the menu today folks, we’re going hardcore with Hákarl, an Icelandic dish made from fermented Greenland shark. Back when the Icelanders still worshipped Odin, they had to make do with whatever they could scavenge from their hostile environment. You’re probably wondering why the hell they still eat fermented shark today, when food that hasn’t had to decompose is readily available. Well, it’s all to do with tradition. The Icelanders are an extremely proud people, focused on keeping their traditions very much alive.

Now, if you’re thinking ‘you know what, I think I’ll have my shark before it rots,’ stop. If you ate Greenland shark before it has fermented, you’d be puking blood, and could potentially cut your life short. The fresh flesh of the Greenland shark is crammed with toxins. Interestingly enough, these toxins work as an antifreeze, enabling this most northerly shark in the world to survive in sub-zero Arctic waters. The Greenland shark also lacks a urinary tract, which means urine is secreted from their skin. This urine saturated fish has also been known to eat reindeer and polar bears. And if that wasn’t enough, it can live for up to 200 years.

Photo by: Funky Tee

Preparation:
• To prepare this putrid delicacy, you need one freshly caught Greenland shark.
• First things first, behead and gut.
• Wash away the blood and grime and cut into large pieces.
• Make a shallow hole in gravely sand and place the meat inside.
• Place large stones on top of the meat. This presses out the fluid as it decomposes. (We’re doing things old school. If we were taking the modern route we’d be putting the flesh inside a plastic container with a hole for draining the liquid…)
• Go do something for 6 to 12 weeks.
• After the required fermenting time, haul out the pieces, cut into strips, and hang in a shack to dry. Leave there for several months, depending on the season. In summer 6-7 weeks, in winter, 2-3 months.
• When the months are up, you’ll notice the shark has developed a brown crust. Cut this off.

Photo by: alwithacamera

Serving:
• Chop the shark into bite sized cubes and serve on toothpicks, alongside rye bread and Brennivín, an insanely strong spirit made from potatoes. The word Brennivín translates into English as ‘burning wine.’ You’ll understand why when you’ve sampled it.

How To Eat:
• The meat will smell like it has wet itself, so, if you’re a first timer, pinch your nose.
• Just before you swallow the meat, do what the Icelanders do and knock back a shot of icy Brennivín. Apparently doing this will help you to remember the experience more fully, though I doubt you’ll need much help.

Photo by: WhatsAllThisThen

Traditionally, Hákarl is served during the Icelandic mid-winter festival Þorrablót with a selection of Icelandic oddities such as Svið (boiled sheep heads), Selshreifar (seal’s flippers) and Súrsaðir hrútspungar (ram’s testicles). It’s also available all year round in supermarkets, ready prepared, chunked and vacuum packed for your convenience.

Written by

Katie Metcalfe is an English writer, blogger, poet and magazine editor. She has five published books under her belt, and is currently working on a collection of writings about death.

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