A journalist friend of mine passed through London last week on his way back from Iceland, with all kinds of goodies, including a sheep’s head, horse meat and some cured puffin. Most excitingly, he brought back a little of that most infamous Icelandic delicacy, rotted shark. As anyone who’s read my recent memoir will know, I don’t have many food taboos, and I was longing to see if this stinky stuff would defeat me. I really expected it to: I had visions of some slimy, putrescent gunge that I’d only be able to taste with closed eyes and pinched nostrils.
To my amazement, however, it was fine, and not shocking at all. It came in small cubes, with a heady, high, exhilarating smell reminiscent of ripe roquefort and Chinese preserved duck eggs. It was no worse than the aroma of durian fruit or cheese, and actually rather bracing. Smell aside, the rotted flesh looked like any cured fish, waxy and slightly translucent. In the mouth, it had an oily, chewy texture, like a cross between real cold-smoked salmon and biltong.
Oh dear, if I can eat even this without blanching, where on earth am I to go for a real gastronomic challenge?! Any suggestions?