Tag Archives: rancid

Putrified, Rancid Skate: An Icelandic Delicacy

 

Speaking of putrified skate, I had an opportunity to smell one, many years ago. I was on vacation in Long Beach, Washington, and while beachcombing one day, encountered a dead skate upon the beach. It was the worst goddamned thing I ever smelled. In fact, it became the standard to which I likened the smell of fresh-cooked lutefisk (which I haven’t written about here, yet).

Having had this experience, I shuddered involuntarily when I happened upon an article extolling the gustatory virtues of Skata, a “timeless” Icelandic standard, which falls under the loose and ill-defined category of “fermented animal products.” Quite simply, before cooking and consumption, the skate must be prepared by being “kept for weeks under stones and turf and then being hung out for drying in the cold climate.”

Sounds like rotten fish, to me. However, the author of the article “Strange Smelling Delicacy” at The Iceland Review online insists that “…it is by no means rotten or damaged. It is only fermented like cheese, and is very healthy…”

I would like to take a moment here to correct a misconception that this author is promoting, as countless others have done before him–

There are a number of animal-based foods from different parts of the world that are described as being “fermented.” However, the term is erroneous when applied to such foods because fermentation properly means the decomposition of carbohydrates, and since animal tissues are composed of proteins and lipids, and contain at most only traces of carbohydrates, the operative processes in the transformation undergone by these foods are actually putrefaction and rancidification. (source)

So, Skata, its “health benefits” and “gustatory delights” notwithstanding, is a putrified, rancid skate. Which is exactly what I would expect to result from burying a dead fish, and then hanging it out to dry. That’s why it’s “strong smelling.” Because it’s freakin’ rotten.

Me – I’ll opt for a nice fresh piece of halibut grilled in butter, any day.

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Surströmming: “Sour Herring”

Rotten FishSurströmming is an ostensible “delicacy” common to northern Sweden. Referred to as “fermented* or “soured” herring, it is made by putting fresh caught fish in barrels to sit for a couple months, with just enough salt added to suppress the more nasty varieties of bacteria that would propagate in the slurry, otherwise. After two months, the fish is transferred to cans where the “fermentation” process continues, often causing the can to swell (which we in the U.S. would equate with the presence of botulism).

The swelling results from the production of carbon dioxide gas through the action of Haloanaerobium , a species of bacterium which feeds upon the fish.

Rotten Fish on Cracker-breadThe fish has such a foul odor that it is often opened and consumed out-of-doors. The smell results from the following compounds, produced during the “fermentation” period, which also add to the “complex” flavor of the product:

  • propionic acid: pungent/acrid quality
  • butyric acid: rancid-butter
  • hydrogen sulfide: rotten-eggs
  • acetic acid: vinegar-like

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*Not accurate. The process of fermentation refers specifically to the biological action of organisms breaking down carbohydrates (as in grains, fruits, etc.). The processes which occur in animal products (which contain almost no carbohydrate) are properly called “putrefaction” and “rancidification.” It may be that purveyors of putrid, rancid flesh products adopted the term “fermentation” because 1.) The process superficially resembles the process of fermenting carbohydrates 2.) Because “fermented” sounds less noxious than “putrid” and “rancid.”

Stinky Tofu: Beancurd or BeanTURD?

chodoufuRestaurant owner fined for bad smell of his bean curd

Odor costs him about $3,100

[Excerpts]

For Peng Tian-rong, business stinks, and he hopes it stays this way.

The chodoufu — a rancid fermented bean curd — Peng sells at his eatery in Shinzhuang, Taipei Prefecture, also has brought the sweet smell of success.

However, the distinctive odor of his chodoufu has seen him fall afoul of the authorities, who have ordered him to pay a fine of 100,000 New Taiwan dollars (about $3,100) for polluting the air. The fine, equivalent to two months’ wages for an ordinary worker, is the first ever imposed on chodoufu deemed too stinky….

…The fine has become a badge of honor that is drawing more customers, some of them traveling from afar to sample his wares.

Some businessmen have sensed an opportunity to cash in on the stink by selling air freshener to chodoufu vendors, saying authorities might crack down on restaurants selling the curd.

But not everything has come up smelling like roses for Peng.

Strangers, he said, often ask him if he has stepped in some dog droppings because of the way he smells.

(Read the entire article)

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