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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 … )

Preparation

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.

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CategoriesTastes

Eating Hákarl in Iceland

Fermented shark, hákarl, is an example of a cu...
Fermented shark, hákarl, is an example of a culinary tradition that has continued from the settlement of Iceland in the 9th century to this day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the reasons I went to Iceland was to try the country’s “delicacy” (just in case the quotes don’t make it clear enough, this is using the term very loosely) known as hákarl. This translates simply into “shark.” You pronounce it as “HOW-ker.”

But it’s more than that: It’s a shark that’s spent months decomposing underground to begin draining it of toxins. These toxins, according to National Geographic, act as antifreeze so it can live in cold waters around Iceland and Greenland. The curing process makes it safe for humans to eat. After being buried, it’s then exhumed, hung up for a few months, sliced and eaten raw.

I couldn’t wait to give it a go. Watch the video to see what happens, and be sure to read my conclusion at the bottom of this post.

 

Okay, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. I’d eat hákarl before I’d eat gefilte fish, for sure. It’s far cooler. But after the video was shot, my wife looked pretty grossed out, and I half-expected her to abandon me in the south of Iceland if I didn’t dispose of the shark immediately.

So I carried the remained out into the streets looking for a trash can. The two bins I found appeared to be for recycling only. Then I saw a large red bin, which usually means a big truck comes, picks it up and dumps the contents into its garbage-holding area. So I flung the bag up over the walls.

Or so I thought.

The “trash bin” was a storage shed, and it was too big for me to get on top and recover the bag from its roof. So some grocery store storage shed now has a bag of hákarl aging on top of it. Oof. Sorry to my friends in Iceland. I promise I was trying to do the right thing!

 

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