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15 Interesting Hákarl Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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15 Interesting Hákarl Facts

Disgusting! That’s the only thing you probably think of when you see someone eating balut or a beating cobra heart but if you are thinking that’s the worst thing you can think of eating, think again! Let us introduce you to Hákarl. By no means should you ever insult or belittle this dish when in Iceland because, it is the NATIONAL DISH of the nation. You don’t want to see yourself being punished for insulting something that Icelandic people consider delicacy. So, what is so bad about this Hákarl? Let us find out through a list of 15 interesting Hákarl facts. Be prepared to feel disgusted!

Interesting Hákarl Facts: 1-8

1. Hákarl is a national dish of Iceland which is made out of Greenland and other sleeper shark. A special fermentation process is used for curing the sharks.

2. Post fermentation, the sharks are then hung to be dried. They are left for drying for about 4 to 5 months.

3. Hákarl offers a very acquired and fish taste with a very disgusting ammonia-rich smell.

4. Hákarl is so famous in Iceland that it is eaten round the year and is easily available in stores.

5. So far so good? It may not sound very disgusting but the fun part is yet to come. Hákarl isn’t made out of fresh Greenland shark. A fresh Greenland shark is poisonous because it contains very high concentration of trimethylamine oxide and urea.

6. Because the meat is highly toxic when fresh, Hákarl is prepared out of rotten shark. The shark is left for full decay. The decaying and the curing process gets rid of the uric acid and trimethylamine oxide, making the remnants edible.

7. A Greenland shark or a basking shark is first beheaded and gutted. The rest of the shark is then place in a small hole made in gravelly sand.

8. Once the shark is put into the hole, gravels and sand are used to cover it up and then heavy stones are place on top so that shark is very well pressed. Pressing is necessary for draining out the bodily fluids of the dead shark.

Interesting Hákarl Facts: 9-15

9. Depending on the season, the shark is left in that condition for fermentation for a duration of 6 to 12 months. Once the curing is completed, the shark is take out of the hole.

10. Once out of the whole, the shark is cut out in strips and is hung for drying. The strips are left hanging for 4-5 months.

11. When the strips are left out for drying, a brown crust forms on top of the strips. The brown crust is not edible and is removed before the final stage.

12. Once the crust is removed, the strips are then sliced into small pieces and are ready to be served. They are usually cut down into cubes and served on toothpicks.

13. The Hákarl isn’t really great tasting for those who are not used to it. It is plain rotten and dried shark meat with a very uninviting smell of ammonia.

14. A person trying out Hákarl for the first time usually gags involuntarily because that strong smell of ammonia is something that is dreadfully difficult to deal with.

15. Hákarl is usually eaten with a shot of brennivin, which is actually a local spirit. As if the very idea of eating rotten fish was not enough, Hákarl comes in two variants – skyrhákarl which is white and soft and is taken out of the body and the other one is glerhákarl, which is chewy and reddish and is usually taken out from the belly.

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Did You Know exactly how Hákarl was described by famous chef named Anthony Bourdain? This is what he said: “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he ever tasted in his whole life.

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Sources: 1, 2

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