From Iceland — Video: Food Of Iceland: Sheep Head

Valur Grettisson

Ever wonder how it would be to eat someone’s face? Of course you have. Icelanders have found a way to experience this feeling without hurting anyone. Well, except for sheep, of course.Icelanders takes pride in eating sviðakjammi—a singed sheep’s head—every year in the fourth month of winter. It’s an old traditional dish that has been on the menu for hundreds of years.

What is it? How does one prepare the dish? Well, if you really want to know, they take the sheep’s head, scorch it until the hair has been burned off entirely, and then they scrape everything off until there is only the naked head left. That’s why sviðakjammi literally translates to ‘scorched head,’ or ‘scorched jaws.’

The next step is the method of preparing all Icelandic cuisine more or less until 1990: boil the head for an hour or so. Finally you have this brownish leather-like grinning sheep head, eyeballs and all.

I know, it sounds like the ‘Silence of The Lambs’ gone weirdly wrong, but it’s fairly tasty, as far as Icelandic traditional foods go. I mean, we haven’t even mentioned the sheep balls yet.

The meat is a little bit chewy, and you really have to scrape it off the chin to get a decent bite. Surprisingly, the best parts of the head are the eyeballs. But there are only two of them, so you are in for a fight if you’re dining out with Icelanders. Or sociopaths. Either way, it’s an exciting dish and worth a try. As an added bonus, ordering sviðakjammi could potentially unveil any Hannibal Lecter types at the dinner table.     

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