Brunching on Svið, Icelandic Boiled Sheep Head

so after yesterday’s hákarl experiment, i was ready to hang up my adventure fork and call it quits. but then i read about svið, a sheep’s head that is singed to remove the fur, split in two, debrained, and boiled (the end).

i was content just looking at the pictures but then a friend asked me about it and said she regretted not being able to try it, so i went. here’s a little pictorial.

apparently the only place in Reykjavik you can get svið is at the little diner in the main bus station (BSI), which you might know if you took the pricey Flybus from the airport into town. walking from downtown Reykjavik the orange sign for the Fljótt og Gott (“Quick and Good”) restaurant draws you in like a moth to a flame.

In which Jon tries svið.

That word, “Umferðarmiðstöð”, apparently means “Terminal”

there is a little card on the buffet line that advertises this specialty. i asked for it, paid, and he said he’d bring it out. (sadly, i forgot all about the soup and didn’t get any, which was fine. i had my bottle of Diet Coke to help wash this down.) they also serve hamburgers (hamborgarar!) and breakfast food for those in your party who may not wish to partake in this treat.

In which Jon tries svið.

1,990kr = $17.80 as of today.

after a couple minutes (by the way, don’t forget to ask for the wifi password), he brought this out:

In which Jon tries svið.


what bothered me wasn’t that it was…well, a sheep’s head. growing up in a Chinese family i’m used to seeing (and eating) random animal parts (note i will not eat chicken feet, thankyouverymuch), and (a fact many of you may not know), i did a year of medical school before deciding i didn’t want to be a doctor, and after you go through anatomy and have dissected a cadaver, well, this is nuthin’.

i just had no idea how to begin! i watched some videos on youtube to see what people ate, but i was hesitant to make the first cut and take the first bite. but off i went. before i forget: the sides (a sweet mashed potato and some sort of root vegetable mash) were not bad, and a welcome change from the poor meat quality of a sheep’s head (certainly you shouldn’t be expecting a prime cut of mutton!).

but yes, you do eat the skin. and the eye. basically anything that looks fleshy, i think is safe to eat. the taste is…well, like slightly salty and slightly gamey meat? it’s not particularly unappetizing, just low-quality. there seemed to be quite a bit of fat, so it was a bit greasy-feeling at times. it was, however, easier than expected to remove from the bone.

In which Jon tries svið.

Getting cheeky.

In which Jon tries svið.

I’ve read that the tongue is one of the best parts. I guess so? It was less spongy and tough than expected.

In which Jon tries svið.

Turned the plate around for better access to the eyeball. It wasn’t goopy or bitter inside nor was there a lens or anything. Just a bit chewy. UPDATE: forgot to mention that the hardest part for me to eat was the nostril, which you can see set aside at the botom left. i figured, though, if i came this far, why stop.

In which Jon tries svið.

All done with the top.

In which Jon tries svið.

Flipped it over to see what was there but really, nothing. You couldn’t really expose anything in the…beaky part because whatever it was that covers it (cartilage?) didn’t want to move easily and I wasn’t about to go about exerting any effort.

will i eat this again? probably not. am i glad i tried it so at least i can say i have? yep. am i proud of myself for eating most of it? hellz yeah!

10 Comments on "Brunching on Svið, Icelandic Boiled Sheep Head"

  1. That was freaking AWESOME. 🙂 I’d try it if I was in Iceland, just for the pictures!!

  2. What's Your Point? | May 8, 2014 at 11:24 am | Reply

    I actually tried chicken feet at a traditional Chinese restaurant in the Los Angeles area.

    Never again.

  3. You’re seriously awesome Jon. I was assuming as I read this that you’d try it, write about it, and then stop eating it.

    I was wrong.

  4. Wow you are amazing and deserve a medal for not only trying it but finishing it! Thanks for documenting this culinary adventure.

  5. Thanks for the super pics and the candid article. We are about to head to Iceland for our third trip and this is deffo on our itinerary! I have no problem with chicken feet, hearts or liver – BOOM!

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