Are you interested in getting deep into a culture? Well, you must be aware that the best way to do so is getting to know the gastronomy of a certain place. Cooking means more than the mere pleasure of enjoying a tasty dish. It is sharing our culture, meeting others and convey our heritage. Oh! And of course… to share whatever our own soil produces and gives to us every single day. So, if what we aim in this blog is to share our Icelandic culture with anyone interested in our beautiful country, writing about our Icelandic food is a must.
Eating is the most natural and universal way to connect with one another. It does not matter if differences between regions can be found. Sometimes, there are even differences between your house and your neighbour’s. But it is OK, there are never identical versions of a popular dish. This way we can discover a way to enrich our knowledge by trying new flavours and ways of treating the ingredients. It is fascinating to find how the same ingredients can be converted into a whole new different result depending on the place you are actually in.
In Iceland, due to its geographical location, there is a kind of limited sources when it comes to agricultural products. But do not get me wrong, it has never been an obstacle! Icelandic food highly depends on the ocean, on the dairy from our farms and the meat of our stock. This circumstance has led us to create exquisite dishes, some as weird as they can be, based on such products.
So let’s get into action with the culinary delights and disasters of the Icelandic food!
After several minutes of deep reflexion, I think I am going to start with our “disasters” and then we can go in crescendo into the delights of the Icelandic food. I want you all to finish this article with a good taste in the mouth.
Harkárl or Fermented Shark
What a Viking start! Some people consider Harkárl one of the most disgusting dishes in the world. This cured dish is prepared with the meat of shark from Greenland. This is one of the slowest sharks when it comes to swimming, making it easier to capture.
How it ended up like this is due to its flesh being toxic when fresh. Our ancestors knew this and found a way of getting rid of this toxins. When the meat gets rotten, this toxin disappears. This old century recipe is still alive nowadays and became one of our most famous dishes. The traditional way of eating the Harkárl is with Rúgbrauð and Brennivín, a traditional alcoholic drink whose name translate to “Black Death”, sounds like you have to be drunk to enjoy this dish.
Taste is hard to explain; I would probably say it is quite strong and its smell reminds of ammonia. It sounds awful but it is something you have to experience at least once in a life time!
Svið or sheep’s head
I get mixed feelings with this dish. While I do understand it looks absolutely disgusting, its flavour is actually quite good!
Svið means singed as the head is burnt to remove all the sheep’s hair and then boiled and smoked. Does it sound awful? I think not. Problem is the way it is served. You get the whole head (yes, the whole head) on your plate along with smashed turnips and jelly. Basically, you have to eat its face. Viking up!
Hrútspungar or lamb’s testicles
As we stated before, due to Iceland’s localization, the raw material is limited and nothing can go to waste. This is a great example of that! Have you ever tried pickled lamb testicles? Well maybe now you should. They are a delicacy in Icelandic food and you will find it usually in celebrations. They come in a pressed, square shape and are boiled before serving.
Had enough? Let’s get into the nice side of the Icelandic food:
Pylsur or Icelandic hot dog
Not complicated at all, but one of the most famous items in the Icelandic food. It is cheap and tasty! When buying one as for Ein með öllu (one with everything). This means ketchup, Icelandic mustard, onion, fried onion and a type of relish combined with mayo.
Icelandic Food: Well Known Culinary Delights and Disasters
Lundi or puffin bird
It is such a beautiful bird! with such an amazing flavoured meat! It is smoked but some people claim it reminds them of a liver flavour. You’ll find it on the menu of some restaurants, but please don’t order it. We want to protect our wildlife.
Skyr or Icelandic dairy product
Many people call it yogurt, but it is not. It would be more of a type of cheese in a creamy yogurt like texture. Its flavour is a bit sour but you can mix it with blueberries and it is just pure awesomeness!
It does not only taste good but it is also great for your health as it is high in proteins, calcium and vitamins.
Now it is your turn to come to Iceland, open your mind and get to know us in the best or worst possible way! It is totally up to you.