Yes yes! Our list of bizarre foods keep increasing and after the likes of Kiviak, Surströmming, Casu Marzu, Hákarl and Balut, it is time to divert our attention to Norway. This country has something really unique to offer which goes by the name Smalahove. Not really rotten kind of gross but the dish really is gross (at least because of its appearance). So what is it? How is it prepared? What is its legal status? Let us go through 20 interesting Smalahove facts and find answers to all our questions.
Interesting Smalahove Facts: 1-10
1. Smalahove is a traditional dish of Western Norway. It is made of sheep’s head. Yes, it is the head, intact, cooked and placed on your platter.
2. Its appearance is what makes it really gross but we tend to forget that the sheep or lamb meat that we eat comes from whole animal which once had a head and was very much alive. So, Smalahove kind of makes sense considering the fact that the head has some meat and other parts to offer which are pretty tasty (if you ask people who have eaten it).
3. This dish also goes by the names skjelte or smalehovud.
4. This dish is actually a main course and is usually prepared and eaten right before Christmas.
5. The literal meaning of the term Smalahove is sheep head.
6. The head of the slaughtered sheep is first taken and split into two pieces.
7. Once split, the brain is then removed and the pieces are soaked in water for two days.
8. Once the soaking process is completed, the pieces are preserved by properly salting them and are then dried and smoked so that the fleece is removed from the head.
9. Nothing else is removed. This means that the tongue and the eyes stay as part of the dish.
10. During special occasions, the preserved pieces are then steamed or boiled for nearly 3 hours. This ensures that the meet present on the entire head is properly loosened.
Interesting Smalahove Facts: 11-20
11. Once boiling or steaming is completed, it is ready to be served. Only one piece of a single skull is served with mashed potatoes and rutabaga. Traditionally Norwegians served the Smalahove with Akvavit (a flavored spirit).
12. It is not really necessary that the brain be removed. Sometimes the brain is retained and is cooked right inside the skull. In case the brain is retained, the skull is not split into two and the whole head is cooked at once. Once the cooking is done, the skull is the split into two.
13. When cooked with the brain inside the skull, people simply use a spoon to scoop out the brain and eat it.
14. In case the brain is removed prior to cooking, it may be fried and served along with the dish.
15. As far as the tongue and the eyeballs are concerned, they are considered delicacies.
16. As far as eating technique is concerned, the eyeballs and the ears are first to go down the esophagus because they are fattiest of all parts and are best eaten while still hot or warm.
17. Once the fatty parts are down, people then start working working on the meat from the head’s front to the back.
18. Preparing Smalahove from adult goat or sheep has been forbidden EU directive since 1998. The reason for this ban was the possible transmission of a disease known as Scrapie. It is a degenerative prion disease found only in adult goats and sheep. Studies however reveal that Scrapie cannot be transmitted to humans.
19. Today Smalahove is prepared only from lamb head and many people find is pretty repulsive and gross. However, it is still a prized delicacy for tourists and others who seek thrill in culinary delights.
20. Though the dish originated in Western Norway, it is pretty popular in northern European countries and also the Mediterranean. Originally the dish was eaten only by the poor class of people but today, everyone who finds it appealing eats it irrespective of class and financial status.
Image credit: “Smalahove01” by PerPlex – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons