Viking Beer blog

Icelandic food & fun

Icelanders are well known for their “black humour”

Viviane Vaz

I hope you will have the time to observe the Icelandic people sense of humour and laugh with them. In a 48-hour stop-over, I was able to discover it on my way out to eat.

In the first restaurant I went in Reykjavik, I came across a dish called “Combo”. Their menu description? “The chef knows what it is”. Fancy a surprise meal? 😉  

The second restaurant was very elegant and recommended. Very discreetly, a special sign hung over the kitchen’s door: “Don’t feed the chefs”.

The best was yet to come. The third restaurant was a traditional Icelandic place offering the national dish “Hákarl”. You can translate it as “fermented shark”, although I much prefer the popular free translation, defining it as “rotten shark”.

Cubes of Hákarl (“rotten” or fermented shark meat) served with a shot of brennivin

In fact, the fresh shark meat can be poisonous due to a high concentration of uric acid, but it may be consumed after being processed. It is often served in cubes on toothpicks. Due to the high ammonia content, it can be quite challenging to the tourists. It is usually eaten with a shot of brennivin, a local spirit.

The restaurant had a sign on their wall warning about this delicacy: “if you had any issues, feel free to tell us. We won’t get angry, but the shark will”.


Truth is… the Icelandic people are well known for their “black humor” (or “gallows humor”). In my visit to a bookshop in Reykjavik, I discovered the work of the cartoonist, writer, and comedian Hugleikur Dagsson. He made this funny non-political correct history of Iceland: