I came to Iceland partly for the natural wonders and partly for the bizarre food.
The natural beauty of the place has left me slapping myself, silly whilst the hunt for traditional Icelandic fare has been bordering on frustrating.
You see, all the crazy traditional fare that I’ve been trying to sample, like sheep’s faces (svið) ram’s testicles (hrútspungar) are super daggy to the Icelandic kids today.
Why? Well, subsistence farming, eating what’s available and preserving the rest are not longer necessary, as the younger generation generate decent income and have grown their palettes have expanded to more European tastes.
I shit you not, pizza, burgers and pasta are everywhere!
“Back in my day!“, baby boomer Icelanders (or Norsemen) will say, “we used to eat all of the lamb, kids these days are spoiled for choice!”
Sure, you CAN hunt down most items, at a solid price, but I have yet to find a sheep’s face in the convenience store or local supermarket as promised. You can bet your arse I’ve tried!
I have managed to track down some dishes off the list, and YES I’ve tried fermented shark (but that’s for a separate post). Without further ado … I give you boiled and singed sheep’s face, with a side of potato mash and swedish turnip (rutabaga or swede):
The sheep face was found at locally reknowned Mýrin Mathús at the BSI bus interchange.
Accompanied with a pint of Viking beer (otherwise known as dutch courage), I was confronted with a shitload of skin and an overpowering odour of sheep in front of me.
It just looked … so … real.
Having eaten pig face a few times before, and enjoyed it, this was next level creepy to look at since it’s not roasted. It has the hair singed off and then it’s boiled. It doesn’t develop a crackled skin, therefore the skin remains smooth. Like it’s still alive. *shudder*
As a subscriber to the “nose to tail” methodology, I definitely believe if you’re going to enjoy a lamb cutlet, you’ve gotta realise the lamb once had a face?
Speaking of the nose. Who knew a nostril could taste so good? It was surprisingly a delicious part of the face, with a delicate meat lining and very soft skin. As you’d expect some of the most delicious meat sat under the cheek skin and around the jaw bone.
The meat was quite strong in sheep taste though not as strong a mutton. It fell apart with barely a knife required. I’m surprised it was boiled, it actually had quite a mild smokey taste, which could be attributed to the natural way the sheep in Iceland are bred and raised. No factory farming exists here.
There was no brain, they use that for other dishes. There was a bit of tongue which is always delicious and the eyeball was sitting snugly under those eyelids.
I couldn’t do the eyeball. I have a thing with eyeballs, the texture and the taste grosses me right out. I probably disappointed the old dude sitting across from me, staring as I ate quite a lot. Hopefully he finished it off, along with a pile of skin I couldn’t get through, once I left.
Glad and a little proud to have tried a bit of real traditional Icelandic fare before it becomes the stuff of legend. Props to Myrin Mathus for keeping it going, and at a reasonable price where they could charge a large “tourist surcharge”.
BONUS: If you’re not keen to try a whole Sheep Face, you can experience the taste in a dish called “sviðasulta“, which is a head cheese jelly. Not a dairy cheese, but a terrine or meat jelly, where offcuts are suspended in aspic (sometimes called brawn).
Traditionally this includes face meat, tongue and feet. Maybe you’ll get some heart if you’re lucky too!
One of my personal favourite cold cuts that’s way more interesting than ham if you’re game to try. Pun intended.
I really don’t know if I could do that, and I don’t turn down much! Fascinating though 🙂
What’s the craziest thing you haven’t turned down?
Food wise? I’ve had frog, crickets, nothing too crazy although I like to think I will try most things! Maybe after a couple of pints I would tuck into this dish too…
A bit of “Dutch courage” is often helpful when trying out the unusual!
it actually sounds delish but I still don’t think I could eat it, great going tho for giving it a try 🙂