Let Us Now Praise Stinky Foods: How to Cure Icelandic Hakarl (Including Urine)


Can you believe this innocent looking plate of blubbery cubes is one of the stinkiest substances on earth?

Of the ancient Icelandic dish hakarl, Anthony Bourdain declared it to be “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing.” And coming from the host of No Reservations, that’s really saying something.

Hakarl begins with the flayed flesh of the Greenland shark, a species with tissue so high in uric acid, that it’s considered inedible without long periods of curing. This curing is usually accomplished by burying the shark under a heavy load of pebbles, and letting the dark juices ooze out for six to eight weeks. Traditionally, people urinated on the gravel above the shark after it was buried, which supposedly interacted with the flesh to partially neutralize the ammonia.

This apparatus for hakarl allows it to sun- and air-dry.

After the curing (some might say “rotting”), the shark flesh must be dried on racks in the sun, a process which can take several months. After this period, the larger hunks are cut into small cubes, which are eaten with toothpicks, often with a stiff glass of aquavit.

There’s no place I know in town that sells it, but there’s a recipe if you can get your hands on one of these sharks, which are supposedly not endangered.

Greenland shark

See the entire catalog of stinky foods.

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