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Rotten Shark in Reykjavik

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Jan 3rd, 2012, 02:48 AM
  #1
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Rotten Shark in Reykjavik

We're read and heard so much about rotten shark in anticipation of our upcoming trip to Iceland that I have to ask....what do those of you who live there or who have traveled there think? My husband is dying to try it; me, not so much . Should I be brave? Where's the best place to try it and what should we wash it down with? Looking forward to your advice!
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Jan 4th, 2012, 04:31 AM
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I have to say it's one of the worst things I've ever put in my mouth. Unlike anything I've ever tasted before and hopefully unlike anything I'll taste in the future! You only live once though, so I'd say go for it.

It's definitely one of those experiences you'll remember for the rest of your life.

It's traditionally washed down with a shot of Brennivin (the local equivalent of an eau de vie or strong, homemade spirit) to help take the taste away/numb your tastebuds.

As for recommendations of where to try it, I'm only guessing, but I'd say it's going to taste pretty much the same anywhere, as there's only so much you can do with six-month old, fermented shark meat.

Be brave and give it a go. At the very least it'll be a great story to tell the grandkids. As my Grandfather used to say; "You shouldn't regret the things you have done, only the things you haven't".
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Jan 4th, 2012, 08:54 AM
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I could not get past the very strong ammonia smell. There was no way I could put that in my mouth.
We stopped somewhere and bought a small container and when you took the lid off your sinuses would clear out 5 feet away.
But it was an interesting item and you should probably try it if you can.
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Jan 4th, 2012, 08:59 AM
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we spent 10 days in Iceland a few years ago an thankfully managed to avoid it. we did eat puffin, guillimot, a lot of lamb, and some nice fish.

there are plenty of other things to eat in Iceland that are worth eating - I suggest you stic kto them!
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Jan 4th, 2012, 09:01 AM
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Bizarrely MarthaT, the smell is actually worse than the taste.

However that's a bit like saying being burgled is better than being mugged...
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Jan 4th, 2012, 01:28 PM
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Bizarrely MarthaT, the smell is actually worse than the taste.>>

bit like the durian, then, allegedly.
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Jan 4th, 2012, 01:38 PM
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I love the comments: worst thing ever -- you should try it!

@annhig -- I was fortunate enough to stay in a Mandarin Oriental in Malaysia on business a few years back and one was required to check their durian at reception -- not allowed in the rooms!
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Jan 4th, 2012, 02:58 PM
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As per the others, if you can get past the weird smell you'll be rewarded with yet more weird taste! Hákarl is one of those things that you just have to try, and it won't kill you, even though it may feel like it for a second. My theory is that's why Brennivin was developed - to burn the taste away. Not true, but you can understand if it was!

I tried it at Sjávarkjallarinn which is a seafood restaurant in the centre of Reykjavik. The rest of the menu is lovely and even the Hákarl was presented well. There's another place called Islenski Barinn (Iceland Bar) which also has Hákarl, but I didn't try it there - once was enough!
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Jan 4th, 2012, 03:03 PM
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I can't say I'm surprised at these responses, but you guys aren't giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling about it! I'm actually leaning toward trying it, but I don't want to "regurgitate" it in public! I like Jay's grandfather's philosophy; you should regret only the things you haven't done.

Has anyone read "The Geography of Bliss" by Eric Weiner? He has a wonderful chapter about Iceland and his account of trying it is hilarious. (He wasn't a fan.)

You're right; it probably tastes the same just about anywhere. I have to go make dinner, so I'm going to stop thinking about it .

More to come; I'll report back in February!

Ellen
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Jan 5th, 2012, 07:15 AM
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Sir Thomas Beecham - try everything once except incest and morris dancing!
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Jan 5th, 2012, 07:31 AM
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Tastes horrible! Smells horrible! For heaven's sake, no matter what Jay_G's grandfather says Don't Eat It!
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Jan 5th, 2012, 07:49 AM
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I haven't had the shark, but I've had the Brennevin - smells and tastes like caraway seeds!
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Jan 5th, 2012, 09:38 AM
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Sounds like Fear Factor to me.
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Jan 5th, 2012, 10:21 AM
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I don't know why cultures feel the need to sensationalise their food.

Sardinia served this up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CGseBM85gc

Vile.
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Jan 6th, 2012, 02:43 AM
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Oh, that's such an awful video! Yes, vile; I would never eat anything containing things that move - especially maggots!

Nikki, good observation; it does sound like Fear Factor.

A colleague of mine ate the shark and said it's really not bad. I guess I'll make the decision when the moment arrives, but it's not looking hopeful at the moment!
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Jan 6th, 2012, 02:57 AM
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It's not about cultures sensationalising their food, there's often an historic reason for it, usually born out of hardship, or the time before fool-proof methods of preservation.

Another example is Surströmming from Sweden, which I have to say beats the Icelandic shark for smell, as it's much, much worse. I think you're still aren't allowed to take it on some airlines as it's rated as an 'offensive weapon' and the smell has been likened to a gas leak mixed with a rotting corpse...

Here's a link to its suggested origins for you Dickie:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surströmming
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Jan 6th, 2012, 03:14 AM
  #17
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Rotten shark is pretty nasty, but it's an experience. I don't drink alcohol and I made it through the dinner just fine. (It was one of those "Viking dinners", on my first trip to Iceland.)

Not something I'd want to have regularly...
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Jan 6th, 2012, 03:24 AM
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You mentioning you don't drink alcohol Amy reminds me of possibly the worst thing I've ever drunk, which was some home-made spirit at a friend's house in Haute Savoie.

It had been flavoured with a viper, which was still sitting at the bottom of the bottle...

As you can imagine, the 'flavour' was along the lines of 'dead snake soaking in methylated spirit'. I would have been glad of some Icelandic shark to take the taste away.
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Jan 6th, 2012, 12:30 PM
  #19
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What's funny, Jay_G, is that "snake wine" is the only kind I've ever had! I was on a Mekong River boat in Vietnam, and I didn't want to refuse the, um, kind offer. It tasted of absolute badness, I'll tell you that.
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Jan 6th, 2012, 03:00 PM
  #20
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There's no way I'd drink snake wine. Sounds like tequila with the worm, although I've never tried that either (I tend to like my alcohol sans living - or dead - creatures).

I'm getting a lot of pressure from my husband who says "You gotta try it (the shark)!"

I agree, Jay, that it's not about sensationalizing it; I see it as cultural. One of the most interesting ways to learn about and understand a culture is through its food. It's all about what we're brought up with and therefore used to vs. what's not familiar. Sometimes the "not familiar" is edible, maybe even delicious...and sometimes not so much...
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