a canonical compendium of repulsive recipes


rotting shark and black death

Iceland is a wacky place. Apparently if you're an American and you go there, there will be people just lining up to have sex with you simply because the entire nation only has like twelve people in it and they're all completely sick of each other and are in need of new folks to bang. When I was in elementary school we had an Icelandic au pair named Ragna. As far as I know she didn't have crazy sex with everyone; instead, she sat in her room and cried and occasionally ventured out to change my sister's diaper. She went back to Iceland after a month, where I like to think she lives a rich and fulfilling life involving hot tubs and Bjork. In reality she is probably still sitting in a room and crying, because you would too if your name was Ragna.

Besides totally unfathomably weird people, Iceland is also home to the most virulently repulsive traditional cuisine ever. I'm positing this is because they don't have much on the island besides sheep, or surrounding it besides weird northern-Atlantic fish. Limited food resources + hella awful winters = "creative efficiency," which is the phrase I'm going to use as a euphemism for whatever demonic mind decided that the following recipe was a good idea.
hakarl (rotted shark)

1 shark
a sandy beach in a cold area

Bury the shark in sand. Wait six to nine months, or until the decomposition process has stalled. Dig up the rotting shark. Serve it frozen in small pieces, accompanied by shots of Brennevin (Ed: an icelandic alcohol whose name somwhat appropriately translates to "Black Death.") in order to mask the flavor of rotting, moldy shark meat.

Here are some fun warnings about Hakarl:
- if you eat too much, you will get horrible diarrhea
- if you dig it up too soon, and eat it, you will die. The sand leeches out ammonia and other toxins from the shark.
- apparently Icelanders consider this worth the risk and effort nonetheless.

I tried to find a picture to go with this recipe, but Hakarl actually looks pretty inoffensive, and pictures of dead sharks - while moderately unpleasant - aren't really that big of a deal. Apparently it's the smell of the decomposed cartilaginous fish-thing that really gets you, and they don't make an HTML tag for stinkiness yet. So instead, here's a picture of an icelandic person being crowned Miss World. Mentally insert rotting shark meat if you like.


Zombie Chicken

I'm quoting this from the New York Times, and I don't really think it needs comment. However, I do promise this: If you can obtain for me a live pre-plucked chicken, an appropriate quantity of mercury and sulfur, and an on-call ambulance, I will prepare and serve this dish for you. In its entirety.

The speaker here is Heston Blumenthal, chef at The Fat Duck, England's highest-Michelin-starred restaurant. The "Oh, my god"s are the interjections of the article's author, Christine Muhlke, who is my new best friend. I have decided to name this dish Zombie Chicken, for obvious reasons.
"I had came across a manuscript of Le Viander de Taillevent. He was the chef to the Palais Royal in Paris. I think it was the 14th century.. . .And in there was this wonderful — wonderful? fascinating as opposed to wonderful; it's not the right word — recipe for how to roast a chicken. You take the chicken, and you pluck the chicken while it's still alive, and you baste the skin with a mixture of soya, wheat germ and dripping, I think it was. And apparently this makes it look like the skin's been roasted. You then put the head of this live chicken under its tummy and rock it to sleep. Then you get two other chickens and you roast them. And you bring these three chickens out on a tray to the table. You start carving one of the roasted chickens. And. . .the one that is still alive but sleeping goes sort of 'Wha!' — head pops up — and it runs off down the table."

Oh, my God.

"And that's Part 1. Then you take this poor chicken, and you kill it, and you stuff its neck with a mixture of quicksilver, which is mercury, and sulfur, and then stitch it up. And apparently — obviously I haven't tried this at home, or at work — the expanding air in the neck cavity as you roast causes the mercury and the sulfur to react and somehow creates a clucking noise."

Oh, my God.

"And then you bring this clucking chicken back to the table. So you've taken a live chicken and made it appear dead, and then you've brought it back to life again."

Oh, my God.

"And so it's completely extreme, but it represents for me a point of creativity in cooking — not that I'd ever do anything like that."


hagfish-slime scones

Courtesy of - wait, could it be? what a surprise! - Laurel, who appears to spend all day reading the internet trying to find things to make my blogging experience easier, I am pleased as punch to present something that actually really truly made me feel a little welling of throwup when I looked at pictures of it.

So there is apparently this creature called a hagfish. I consider myself to be a fairly worldly sort of person and while the possession of a somewhat thorough zoological knowledge isn't something on which I necessarily pride myself, up until just now it was something I never quite realized I lacked. Have you ever heard of a hagfish? Don't lie. Clearly you haven't.

Here is what a hagfish looks like:
I find this very disturbing on many levels, one of which the level of this looks sort of repulsively genital. Oh, also, the hagfish likes to open its mouth and get all Dune on our asses:
I should clarify for the sake of journalistic honesty that the matte white bits surrounding the black slimy bit are actually the gloves of a researcher, and only the black slimy bit is actually the hagfish. If you would like to know what a whole hagfish looks like, mentally picture an earthworm that has slime-secretion glands running along the length of its body, magnify it by like twenty, and put on the creepy head evidenced in the above images. Yum, hagfish. Actually there are some decidedly awesome Fun Facts about hagfish, such as: they get their own slime up their noses, and then they sneeze it out. No joke.

So you will have noticed by now that the hagfish secret tons of slime, because I mentioned it in the previous paragraph. As I learned from my vast hagfish research (this one site, pretty much), the slime is a sugar and protein solution that coagulates when it's secreted into water, forming a slime that is similar in texture and chemical composition to egg whites.

So these dudes made scones out of them. This is a picture of a scone:
I'm going to posit that a scone is significantly more appetizing than a hagfish. The, um, fearless students who made a hagfish-slime scone didn't include the recipe in their lab report, so here is my personal recipe for excitingly flaky and not at all dense cheddar-gruyere scones, which receive rave reviews whenever I bake them. Except that I've changed what would have been "eggs" to "hagfish slime." I trust you to adjust accordingly.
Hagfish-Slime Cheddar-Gruyere Scones

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (two sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp yellow cheddar cheese (about 9 ounces), or a mix of 6 ounces cheddar and 3 ounces gruyere.
1-1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons hagfish slime

Preheat oven to 375F

In a food processor, blend flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter using quick pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cheese and cut in using quick pulses. In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and hagfish slime. With the food processor running, add cream mixture through feed tube. Process until dough just holds together – don’t overmix!

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gather the dough together and divide into quarters. Pat each quarter into a round just short of 1 inch high (it should be about 6-7 inches in diameter). Using a clean, sharp knife, cut each round into six wedges. Transfer half the wedges to ungreased baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Bake the first batch of scones until the edges just start to brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer them, still on their parchment paper, to a wire rack to cool at least 10 minutes, during which time put in the second batch of scones.

Serve warm or at room temperature. The scones will stand for about 8 hours. Do not refrigerate. If you want to reheat them, warm them in a 350F oven for about 5 minutes.
From a real culinary perspective, I sort of doubt that the pure egg-slime substitution works terribly effectively, since about 1/3 of an egg's mass is the yolk, which contributes texturally since it's both pure fat and it holds air marvelously (it's a born emulsifier). So maybe this would work better with 4 ounces of hagfish slime and two egg yolks. Or you could probably replace the yolks with butter... or cook up some hagfish and render the fat, if you want the truly authentic version.


1000 servings

the ever-vigilant Laurel, who really - let's face it - ought to be running the whole show here, has found the ideal illustration for Braised Puppy, courtesy of cute overload:


braised puppy with assorted greens

Helen's First Axiom Of Gross Food Blogging:
As soon as you start looking for gross food, gross food stops presenting itself to you.

You would think this is a good thing. You don't want to be walking down the street and suddenly be caught in a hail of pickled eels and be forced to find a positive glimmer in the situation because, well, you started a blog about it and here's a post just raining the fuck down from the sky. But there's got to be some middle ground... the occasional icky recipe that finds its way into a cookbook or a food supplement magazine. This one showed up in my inbox courtesy of me being addicted to Vice magazine, and has the added bonus of being illegal, because we anthropomorphize our pets and we legislate against feeling guilty.

Like many Chinese recipes, the ingredient list is daunting, but if you have any experience with Asian cooking, it's likely you have most of these sauces and spices in your pantry already. And odds are good you can find a dog within a few blocks of your apartment.
Braised Puppy with Assorted Greens


2 pounds dog meat, cut into 2-inch chunks (cuts from both the front and hind legs are wonderful) (Ed: after skinning and deboning, a 2-month-old Labrador ought to yield about 2 pounds of meat. I mean, I think so.)
1/2 medium head iceberg lettuce
1/2 pound Napa cabbage
1/2 pound spinach
1/2 pound edible chrysanthemum leaves (tong oh), optional
1/2-inch-thick slice fresh ginger, smashed
4 slices garlic
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups chicken broth (Ed: if dogs were kosher, the inclusion of chicken broth rather than dog broth would make this a questionable dish, since you're not supposed to mix animals. But then, dogs aren't kosher, so this is a moot point.)
1 teaspoon salt
2 scallions, cut diagonally into 2-inch sections
Cilantro sprigs

Sauce mixture:
2 tablespoons ground bean sauce
2 tablespoons red wet bean curd (nom yu)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 tablespoons Shao Hsing wine
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 square inches dried tangerine peel, softened in hot water for ten minutes
4 pieces star anise
1 tablespoon sugar
8 turns freshly ground black pepper

Sauce thickener:
1 tablespoon corn flour
2 tablespoons water

Separate the lettuce into leaves and break the leaves in half. Wash, drain, and pat dry. Ditto the Napa cabbage. Trim spinach, wash in several changes of water, drain, and pat dry. Discard the buds and the tough ends of the chrysanthemum leaves, wash and rinse them thoroughly, then pat dry. Mix all the ingredients for the sauce mixture and set aside.

In a four-quart pot, bring about two quarts of cold water to boil over high heat. Add dog meat chunks and return to boil. Parboil for five minutes, drain meat in a colander, rinse under cold water, then pat dry. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottom wok or skillet over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the dog meat and stir-fry without any oil for three minutes to brown; the meat will stick to the wok a little. Dish up. Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil to the wok, then the ginger. Drizzle in the sauce mixture, add meat, and stir-fry and turn for a minute. Transfer the whole thing to a four-quart clay pot, add the chicken broth, then bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for approximately an hour and a half, depending on the grade of the meat. Test doneness by inserting a chopstick into the meat: If the chopstick goes in with no resistance, it’s done. Mix the corn flour with water and stir in the mixture to thicken the sauce.

Meanwhile, heat the wok or skillet over high heat again until it’s hot but not smoking. Add one teaspoon of vegetable oil and a piece of garlic, and stir-fry for ten seconds. Add the lettuce and stir-fry for one minute. Add a quarter-teaspoon of salt and stir-fry for another ten seconds or until the lettuce is just limp. Dish up. Repeat the same cooking procedure with the Napa cabbage, the spinach, and the chrysanthemum leaves. Line and surround the braised meat with the four batches of vegetables, garnish with scallions and cilantro sprigs, and serve immediately.
Like the guinea pig recipe, I imagine this would be quite delicious if made with a meat that was not Extremely Cute, for example beef (or if you want to keep the horrific cruelty/really cute animal factor, but are just concerned about the illegality, you could use veal, though the slow braise would sort of ruin the delicate flavor that veal is known for and for which you pay a ridiculous amount of money. I mean come on, it's only a baby cow. Economically speaking it's cheaper to kill it when it's only 3 months old, instead of raising it all the way to adulthood. It eats less, or something).

I think there's also a joke to be made here about dogs being loyal, or being man's best friend, or throwing a dog a bone, or a dog having its day. But honestly I'm too distracted by the delicious thought of getting a puppy and frolicking with it and cuddling it and it being tiny and soft and needy to really pay attention to the humor inherent in Chinese Dog Stew. Mmmmm, puppies.


Fried Guinea Pig

I realize that the idea of a truly repulsive recipe has certain prejudiced elements to it. Having never actually tried haggis, for example, I assume its repulsiveness based on a certain cultural bias I possess against eating stomachs. So there’s definitely an element of xenophobia inherent to the grossness of a lot of the grosser recipes out there. I'm all for cultural awareness and everything, but that being said, eating pets? Ew ew gross. Courtesy of Laurel, who has traveled extensively through the sorts of countries that, in my more drunken moments, I offensively mock, I'm excited to bring you this simple yet delicious confection.

Laurel confirms that this dish is quite popular in, like, Peru or something. I think the key element is the cold beer that it is suggested you have on hand, because you will have to hit yourself in the head with the can or bottle several times until you are dissociated enough from reality to eat a freaking guinea pig.
Juan Fajardo’s Fried Guinea Pig
(Cuy Chaqtado)

1 guinea pig, de-haired, gutted, and cleaned (ed: you’re on your own here. I have no idea how to de-hair a guinea pig. Though my vintage edition of the Gourmet Cookbook has a section on how to flay a squirrel)
1/2 c. flour
1/4 - 1/2 t. ground cumin
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 c. oil

Pat dry the skin of the guinea pig and rub in the cumin, salt, and pepper. Preheat oil. Dust the carcass (ed: yum! Nothing is as appetizing as the word “carcass”) with the flour and place it on its back in the oil, turning to cook both sides. Alternately, the guinea pig can be cut and fried in quarters.

Serve with boiled potato or boiled manioc root, and a salad of cut tomatoes and slivered onions bathed in lime juice and a bit of salt. Have cold beer on hand.

If you're curious as to what this dish will look like before it's cooked, here's an example:
And if you're interested in the after:


welcome to the museum of awful food

this is an offshoot of ReadySteadyGo, my normal everyday blog. I have been coming across so many mightily repulsive recipes over the course of my random googling and my day job which heavily involves cookbooks that I felt it necessary to give them their own home. Be aware that this is nauseating stuff.

Start yourself off with some Gaelic Mushrooms (including a subrecipe for Haggis!) and, as an entree, some Roast Placenta.

If you have any ideas for dessert, drop me a line.