Battle of the Gross Fish: Gefilte Fish Versus Hákarl

Some Greenland shark putrefying Icelandic style.

In an earlier post complete with video, you got to see me eat the rancid Icelandic shark meat known as hákarl. The whole experience made me think of gefilte fish, which I consider the other major abomination of seafood.

One is a motley conglomeration of ingredients ground up together and pressed into patties. The other is just a shark that is left to rot, hung out to dry and sliced into cubes. You’ll find neither on the menu at any fine dining establishments. Since neither is appetizing, I decided to rate which one is more fun to eat. Here are the results (I suppose the winner of this bracket will one day go on the face off against lutefisk)!

Who Eats It”

Gefilte Fish – Just about every Jewish family at Passover – and possibly housecats.

Hákarl – Vikings, Icelanders

Winner: Hákarl, because helmets with horns on them look way cooler than yarmulkes. (Yes, I know Vikings didn’t really wear those, but still … )


Gefilte Fish – Grind up carp, matzoh and anything else you can find. Form into patties. Pack it in jar with gelatinous fish broth.

Hákarl- Gut and behead a shark. Bury it for 12 weeks – exhume, and hang out to dry for several months. Slice into cubes and enjoy with brenevin, a strong Icelandic spirit. The intent of the preperation is to press out toxin’s in the shark’s flesh.

Winner: Hákarl. Because sharks are awesome. Carp, not so much.

Why it Exists

Gefilte Fish – Created to avoid one of the 39 activities prohibited on the Sabbath, and possibly to gross out the goyem.

Hákarl – It’s now a sign of strength and fortitude to eat hakarl. Created because there wasn’t much to eat an Iceland, and possibly to gross out billy goats.

Winner: Hákarl. Vikings don’t dig on prohibited activities.


Gefilte Fish – The best gefilte fish I’ve ever eaten was made by a rabbi’s wife. I told her it was the “least-worst gefilte fish I’d ever had.” Expecting more of compliment for this sort of slimy, warty, briny mess is too much to ask.

Hákarl – Not nearly as bad as I expected. Not good enough to finish a half-pound of it. It was like ceviche gone horribly awry, with an aroma of cat urine and dirty diaper.

Winner: Draw. Given my choice between a half-pound of either, I’d probably take the hákarl for the Viking factor. I’m honestly not sure which is worse, but hákarl is far cooler.

Where to Get It

Gefilte Fish – Safeway, other major grocery stores.

Hákarl – In Iceland, and pretty much nowhere else.

Winner: Hákarl. I mean, really – produce section, oral hygeine aisle and housewares are no contest for volcanos, glaciers and a phallus museum.


Gefilte Fish – A humorous punch line that instantly connects people who have the misfortune to have eaten it.

Hákarl – One taste made celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay vomit.

Winner: Hákarl. Nothing is funnier than exposing Ramsay as a weak-stomached, effette, foul-mouthed weenie who can’t hang with the big dogs when eating Viking food.


Gefilte Fish – “The texture is bumpy and turdy … It may have been the most difficult thing I have ever eaten. As it hit my mouth, I pinpointed what that smell and gelatinous consistency reminded me of: canned cat food.” Mike Breen, City Beat

Hákarl – On smelling it, the host of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman said “… some of the most horrific things I’ve ever breathed in my life.”

Winner: Gefilte Fish. Seriously, “turdy” is one of the greatest adjectives I’ve ever heard.

Final Score

Gifelte Fish 1, Hákarl 7

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By Wandering Justin

Writer. Traveler. Gastronomic daredevil. Fitness fan. Homebrewer. Metal dude \m/. Cat and dog lover.

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