OK, I know what you’re thinking, but I highly recommend trying out new foods when you travel. The cuisine is so closely tied to culture, and some of my best memories have been made while breaking bread around the world.
From fried bugs to rotten fish, there are so many crazy and incredible foods to try. While some of them are truly awful, some are tastier than you might think.
On my most recent trip driving Iceland’s Ring Road, we stopped into the town of Blönduós to try the “national dish of Iceland,” Kæstur hákarl, also known as a fermented or rotten shark.
Hungry? Here’s what you should know about eating rotten shark at Ektafiskur in Iceland.
Rotten Shark, or kæstur hákarl as it is known in the Icelandic language, is a traditional delicacy in Iceland that dates back to the time of the Vikings. While it might not be at the top of your must-eat list, it has always made practical sense in the kitchens of Iceland.
One of my fave spots, Iceland has a lot of stunning natural wonders. It does not, however, have much in terms of vegetation. Since farmland is sparse and conditions are harsh, the people of Iceland have always had to be creative when it comes to food.
This is where the rotten shark enters the picture.
While it may seem like a strange thing to eat, it makes perfect sense in the fish-heavy diet of Iceland. Although Iceland has some amazing seafood right off its shores, the shark isn’t exactly sushi ready. In fact, Greenland Sharks are actually toxic.
This means that they need to be processed before eating. Typically, the shark is cured with a traditional fermentation process and then dried for four to five months until ready. This process leaves it with a UNIQUE taste and smell…
Note: Greenland sharks are not a threatened species, and Iceland produces very small quantities of it. Just because it’s not a “normal” food doesn’t make it wrong. It’s sustainable, and it’s what they have access to in the far north.
What Rotten Shark Tastes Like
Celeb chef Anthony Bourdain described Iceland’s rotten fish as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he has ever eaten. And I have to agree!
It wasn’t the flavor that was even the worst part though. The smell was more intense than anything else. It reminded me of a mix of hair bleach, rotten fish, and blue cheese.
Rotten Shark at Ektafiskur in Blönduós
We went on the Ektafiskur Experience tour, and it was unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. Eating your way into the infamous “The Rotten Shark Club of Hauganes” is one of the highlights of the tour, but it’s not the only thing that they do at Ektafiskur.
This place is most famous for keeping the traditional salted cod industry alive. While nearly every little town in Iceland used to make this savory treat, the Blönduós facility is one of the few places still keeping the industry afloat.
The host of the Ektafiskur Experience tour, Elvar Reykjalin, brings the whole experience to life (watch my video!). He will give you insight into Nordic life and tell you more than you ever thought you wanted to know about the fishing and seafood industry.
Once you’ve seen it all, stick around for the delicious fish soup, and take in the spectacular view from the shores of Blönduós.
Helpful Tip: Like many things in Iceland, the restaurant at Ektafiskur, Baccalá Bar, is closed during the winter. If you arrive after September 1, you’ll need to have a group booking to visit.
Other Things to Do in Blönduós, Iceland
The small town of Blönduós in northern Iceland is a popular spot, and it is where I first encountered rotten shark. The quaint town is home to the country’s only handcraft museum and other cool attractions, such as the Sea Ice Exhibition Center, the Icelandic Textile Center, and a sports center.
There’s also a spot to rent horses to explore the gorgeous surrounding countryside of Blönduós. I recommend taking an afternoon to go horseback riding down the scenic trails. The horses and guides alike are friendly, so it’s approachable for complete beginners.
All photos in this post were edited with #TBAPresets. Click HERE for my presets!