Q: “Is human urine still used during the process of fermenting shark?”
A: “No, it’s not and never has been. Traditionally, shark was buried in sand for six to twelve weeks to allow it to ferment properly. No urine (human or otherwise) was involved in this process. Today, we cut the shark up into 5-10kg pieces and box it up for six to nine weeks. After this we hang the meat up for about three or four months. So, again, no urine is used. A lot of different cultures and countries have different ways of preserving their food. The only difference with fermenting shark is that because it is poisonous when raw, you have to make sure you remove the poison, too, which takes longer, and therefore intensifies the flavour.
“The urban myth of using urine to ferment the meat may have come about as a joke or story when people drank a little too much Brennivín, or perhaps from the smell of ammonia from the shark itself.
“A lot of tourists say that it is the most disgusting food they have ever eaten, but I think there are much worse foods out there!”
So you will be pleased to know that there is no urine involved in the making of Iceland’s most famous delicacy. It’s just the natural, tasty, ammonia-infused flavour of fermented shark. Mmm!
We asked Guðjón Hildibrandsson, head of the Bjarnahöfn Shark Museum in Snæfellsnes. If you have a question about Iceland that you would like answered, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will find the most suitable expert in the field in Iceland to resolve your conundrum.
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