Rotted Shark Is Only Half as Bad as You Might Think

By Judy

Hákarl, or rotted shark, our Icelandic host told us, is best eaten in the dark of winter with copious amounts of vodka. I imagine that the vodka is to kill ones taste buds (and/or senses) and the December setting in the dark of daytime is because what else do you have to do?

This is August, when the sun sets at around 9 PM and all of our vodka was back at the apartment we were staying in. So all I had was water, and strangely enough, hot dogs. 

Hákarl is made of Greenland sharks, which by themselves are poisonous. In order to make them edible (which really, is only technically true), they are buried in their own urine for months, and then salted and hung to dry for several more months. This results in a chewy texture with a taste mostly of, well, shark urine.

Why go through this for a fish that is first of all, poisonous, and second of all foul-tasting? I suppose it is because there aren't a lot of other things to eat in Iceland. Not many vegetables grow naturally and the lack of forests mean a lack of much wildlife. Maybe the bigger question is, why would the Vikings have settled there in the first place?


When I first took a bite, I thought, hey, this really is not as bad as I thought it would be. But in the video you can see that I go from considering it "not great" to "pretty bad" as I chew. I think that if it were easier to chew and therefore didn't have to be in your mouth so long, it would be easier to swallow.