Hákarl – Icelandic Fermented Shark!
What is Hákarl?
Hákarl or kæstur hákarl (Icelandic for “fermented shark”) is a national dish from Iceland. It consists of a Greenland or basking shark which is rotten, has been cured with a fermentation process, and is hung to dry in an open air shed.
National Geographic covers the shark decomposition and preparation in the following video.
How is Hákarl Prepared?
Historically in Viking times the shark was fermented underground, though it is typically done above ground today, with an expert deciding based on scent when the food is ready to be hung to complete the breakdown process. It can be served after 6 months.
The Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum produces most of the country’s supply of Hákarl.
What Does Fermented SharkTaste Like?
Hákarl has a very particular ammonia-rich smell and taste, similar to very strong cheese. It is an acquired taste and many Icelanders never eat it.
When is the Dish Available?
Hákarl is served as part of a Þorramatur, a selection of traditional Icelandic food served at the Þorrablót festival in midwinter, a celebration with pagan origins.
The dish is readily available in Icelandic stores all year round and is eaten in all seasons. Many enjoy eating it as a snack with vodka.
Anthony Bourdain Hated It
The late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain tasted this dish in a 2014 visit to Iceland as part of his No Reservations series. In a Bon Appétit interview with friend Eric Ripert he described fermented shark as one of the foods he would never eat again along with Nambia warthog anus and airplane food.
Submitted by A. Joshi