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Today my brother-in-law told me that he's going to Iceland for vacation. He also told me that one of the delicacies in Iceland is aged/rotten Greenland Shark.

This then brought up a curious question for me and I think this forum is the perfect place for it...

What are some other foods that are essentially allowed to rot or go bad that some cultures call food. If you can name it and maybe give some background about it, describe the taste/texture and maybe how it is used that would be great.

I'm turning this in to a wiki. So please put one food per answer. This way, people can add to and/or comment on each food. I will add the Icelandic delicacy of the rotten shark as an answer below...

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closed as not constructive by Aaronut Feb 26 '12 at 13:14

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I don't seem to be able to turn this into a wiki...can someone help me do this? – milesmeow Feb 26 '12 at 8:18
Anyone how they make Casu Marzu? – TFD Feb 26 '12 at 11:03
These types of poll questions were banned over a year ago when Community Wiki was made into a moderator-only feature. Please read the faq. – Aaronut Feb 26 '12 at 13:15
@Aaronut This seems like a good question especially since most of the answers should involve some sort of food preparation info, i.e. how the food is aged/fermented/spoiled/etc. Do you think that this is valuable information for the community? Perhaps I should rephrase so that people will detail out the preparation of the specific food? – milesmeow Feb 26 '12 at 20:07

The difference between "rot" and "ferment" is extremely thin. The use of bacteria and fungus to partially break down foods is as old as any cultivation process. "Rotten" is just the word we use when the microorganisms have done something we don't like.

Fermented (rotten) foods are incredibly common, from cultured butter, ghee, buttermilk and yogurt to cheese, wine, soy sauce and beer. Not to mention bread, Tabasco, Sriracha, kim chi and sauerkraut, or heck, salami, chorizo, kombucha and fish sauce. Wikipedia has a huge list. We use bacteria like Lactobacillus, yeast like Saccharomyces cerevisiae, mold like Penicillium roqueforti and thousands more. Some are cultured specifically for their task, and others occur naturally and are allowed to do their business without interruption.

A few that come to mind that are less commonly considered and fairly interesting to me:

Bonito - Fish are dried, smoked and inoculated with mold (Aspergillus glaucus). A staple flavoring in Japanese cooking.

Kumis - A carbonated, fermented milk product. Lightly alcoholic, and traditionally made from mare's milk, and fermented with wild yeast and bacteria. Quite the beverage, I hear.

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Iceland: Aged Greenland Shark.

enter image description here

According to Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, basically, the shark is cut into chunks of maybe around 10 lbs or so, put in a wooden box for a week or two, and then taken out of the box and hung for about 6 months in a wooden shack to essentially rot. Average temperatures in Iceland in the summer time only reaches about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The reason why the shark is allowed to rot is because if you eat the shark meat fresh, the ammonia in it's body is know to have cause others to spit up blood...basically it can do some major damage. The only way that they know to 'treat' the shark so that it is edible is to allow it to rot and I think let the ammonia leach out of the meat by hanging it to rot.

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Century egg

Eggs are coated in alkali clay and burred for a few months. I have to say when I had the opportunity to try them I didn't. The fermented egg white is clear and dark brown, the yolk is a dark blue/green colour. The smell is very strong, mostly as they contain a lot of amonia.

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Aging meat is part of everybody's culture. Freshly cut meat goes into 'rigor mortis' after about 24h and becomes tough. Letting it hang in a controlled environment (temperature and humidity) will let the natural occurring enzymes in the meat tenderize it.

Aging can last up to ... 120 days! But apparently that doesn't appeal to everybody.


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Kaanga Piro

Kaanga Piro is New Zealand Maori version of fermented corn

It's history is from the Maori wanting to preserve the late Summer/Autumn corn harvest for the winter. Corn from this season was often damp, and could not be stored as dried cord

The corn cobs are packed into kete (hand woven flax baskets), and submerged in fresh flowing streams. It will keep upwards of 6 months while submerged

After a few weeks in water, the corn cobs turn into to a mushy paste, and has a nutty taste and texture not dissimilar to hummus and fermented soybeans

It smells disgusting, but it is very edible

Expect to see it marketed globally in the near future as a novel food flavoring

enter image description here

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