Iceland, a Nordic island nation, gets its exceptional cuisine from its cultural roots in Scandinavian gastronomy established when the Norse Vikings first settled here around the 9th century. The cuisine primarily revolves around staple ingredients, including fish, bread, dairy, potatoes, and lamb owing, in part, to the country being surrounded by the ocean.
Implications of Surrounding Seas
Unlike conventional cooking methods, Icelandic cuisine emphasizes greatly on the quality and freshness of their seafood. Reykjavik and other Icelandic cities are host to an array of global food options, with restaurants majorly delivering seafood delicacies.
One such dish showcasing Icelandic food authenticity is “Kjötsupa” – a heartwarming lamb meat soup usually consumed throughout the colder months and made from an assortment of Icelandic herbs, vegetables, and tougher lamb bits.
A Dive Into the Unusual
Icelandic cuisine takes a turn for the unusual with “Svið” – a traditional dish that comprises of smoked sheep’s head. While it does not form an everyday Icelandic diet, it has a unique appeal to adventurous eaters. Many travelers affirm that the sheep’s cheek is one of the best meats one can try.
“Plokkfiskur” or the traditional fish stew is made from boiled haddock or cod filets paired with potatoes. It was initially a method to extend the shelf-life of leftovers but has now become a common dish with almost every Icelandic family having their own twist to it. This dish is one of Iceland’s most visitor-friendly culinary offerings.
“Dried Fish Jerky” or Harðfiskur is regarded as an Icelandic delicacy. Perfect for fans of beef jerky, this crunchy fish version is a delectable unusual snack. Beware though, its potent smell spreads fast!
The Fear Factor
Introducing “Hákarl” – a controversial dish, consisting of fermented shark meat. The process, both traditional and modern, involves burying the shark meat underground, then fermenting under controlled conditions and finally, drying. Consumed year-round, it’s known for its distinct ammonia taste, often being labeled as intensely arcane by tourists.
A Treat for Pescatarians
Icelandic cuisine owes its variety to the abundance of saltwater fish species that inhabit the surrounding waters. The menu comprises a range of fish from Cod to Mackerel, and even exotic variations like Lumpsucker and Dealfish. Freshly caught, these fish make for a remarkable dining experience.
A Surprisingly Bold Choice
“Hrútspungar,” translating to Sour Ram’s Testicles, is a dish sure to cause a stir. Considered a favorite by locals, it can be prepared in several ways.
The Famous Icelandic Pylsur
Fast food in Iceland means a tasty hot dog, or “Pylsur.” It might seem expensive compared to international standards but is worth the experience.
For the Brave-Hearted
Do not miss out on Brennivín, the national liquor of Iceland, also known as Svartidauði or “the black death.” Made from fermented grain or potato mash, it’s a local variant of Scandinavian Akvavit.
The Yogurt Phenomenon
Skyr is the iconic, ubiquitous Icelandic yogurt variant filled with protein. Available in various flavors, it is an affordable delicacy for those travelling on a budget.
Bread from the Springs
Rúgbrauð, a dark rye bread, is commonly served alongside fish dishes. One specific type, baked by utilizing the heat from hot springs, is an intriguing choice.
The Icelandic cuisine features two controversial dishes- Puffin, a cute seabird, and whale meat. Both dishes have historical significance in Icelandic cooking. However, the hunting and consumption of these creatures are tightly regulated by the Icelandic Directorate of Fisheries.
The festive season ushers in a batch of mouthwatering dishes, with Hangikjöt (Smoked Lamb), Creamy Langoustine Soup (Humarsúpa), Leaf Bread (Laufabrauð), and Rice pudding (möndlu grautur), among others.
While the Icelandic cuisine might not appeal to all, it provides an incredible array of options for any daring gourmand or intrepid traveler. From homely stews to unusual meats, there’s something intriguing for everyone.