When it comes to traditional Icelandic cuisine you will find a lot of uncommon dishes that for Icelanders are just normal. A significant part of traditional Icelandic cuisine dates back from the Viking times when people used all-natural resources they had to survive. Back in a time when massive imports of food did not exist, people used all the natural resources to make food and survive. The harsh weather conditions and the barren soil limited plant growing so people had to eat more meat as they grew and hunted animals.
The rotten shark is something that amazes and disgusts people at the same time. And of course, the name says all; it is a rotten shark (kæstur hákarl). But the secret is that it’s not actually left somewhere to rotten and then eaten, for this dish is an entire interesting process.
Photo source: insider.com
Nowadays the process is a bit different than Viking used to do it. Back in time, people needed a way to preserve food during the wintertime so they find a way to keep the shark meat for many weeks. Because of the limited access to food, they used to catch and cut the shark then soak it in urine, then buried in the sand and gravel, cover it with sand and stones in order to press the fluids out from the meat. The shark was kept fermenting for about six to twelve weeks but this depends on the season. After the fermentation period, they cut the shark into strips and hang it out to dry for several months. After the shark dries it gets a brown crust which is removed and then is ready to be served.
The rotten shark is not a part of daily cuisine anymore but it is served by locals at the midwinter festival called þorrablót. But here’s a secret: you don’t need to come during winter to try the rotten shark, because In Snæfellsnes Peninsula you can witness this process at Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum and you will have the chance to try rotten shark.
Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum is located in the North of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. At this museum, you will not only learn about the process of making rotten sharks but you will learn about the sharks, how they catch the sharks, what tools and boats they used.
The museum is located between two important towns in Snæfellsnes Peninsula, one is Grundafjörður and the other is Stykkishólmur. If you are on a tour of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula stop and visit Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum and learn more about Vikings and Icelandic traditions.