It shouldn’t come as a surprise that fish and seafood play such a significant role in Icelandic cuisine given that the country is encircled by water on all sides. The majority of Icelandic cuisine is centred on fish, dairy products, bread, potatoes, and lamb, as well as other traditional ingredients.
After Norse Vikings landed in Iceland beginning in the 9th century and continuing forward, the country’s food may be traced back to its origins in the cuisine of Scandinavia.
Today, patrons of restaurants in Reykjavik and other cities may choose from a diverse selection of cuisines from all over the globe. Numerous establishments provide seafood as their primary dish, putting more emphasis on the quality of the ingredients they use than on more conventional methods of preparation.
Fish native to Iceland
Due to the position of Iceland in the midst of the ocean, a significant amount of Icelandic cuisine is comprised of fish and seafood in general. This is something that you may have already observed. Throughout the course of human history, fishing has played a significant role as a method of providing sustenance for the people. At least 340 different kinds of saltwater fish have been identified.
In addition to that, there are three distinct species of salmon that may be found in the waters of rivers and lakes. The fish that is served in restaurants in Iceland is almost always quite fresh, and it is possible that it was caught that exact same day.
Testicles of the Sour Ram (Hrtspungar)
There is another Icelandic cuisine that you may try, and it is called Hrtspungar. If you thought the sheep’s head was unusual, you should try Hrtspungar. You will be served what is known in the English language as Sour Ram’s Testicles, which is also the name of the meal in its native language.
You read it correctly; we’re talking about male reproductive organs (or balls, if you prefer). This meal may be made in a number of various ways, and it seems that the locals are particularly fond of it.
Hangikjöt (Smoked Lamb)
Lamb that has been smoked in Iceland is traditionally served as the main course at Christmas dinner in Iceland. It satisfies all the requirements for a traditional Icelandic holiday feast, including being very delicate, nutritious, and delectable.
Warm versions of this meal are often eaten for lunch or supper and are generally served with potatoes that have been cooked in white bechamel sauce, peas, and pickled red cabbage. It functions similarly to ham when consumed as a cold snack and may be topped with toast in the same manner.
Iceland Hot Dog (Pylsur)
Hot dogs are a popular option for fast food in Iceland, but you shouldn’t expect them to be very affordable relative to other countries’ hot dog prices. One Icelandic Pylsur is about equivalent to seven US Dollars. When compared to Sweden, where IKEA sells hot dogs for under fifty cents each, this is a bargain.
This spirit, which is essentially a schnapps, is considered to be Iceland’s national beverage. In addition, it is recognised by the locals by the name svartidaui, which if translated into English would be “the black death.” Caraway is added to fermented grain or potato mash to give Brennivn its distinctive taste. Brennivn is similar to the Scandinavian spirit known as akvavit.
Bennivin is a Slavic word that translates to something like “burning wine.” If you were to translate it into English, it would sound strange.
Skyr is an Icelandic yoghurt that is ubiquitous and widely available across the country. It is considered to be the country’s national yoghurt. It has gained so much popularity that it is now also being sold in other nations across the world. When I finally did see Skyr again, a few months after returning from my trip to Iceland, I was taken aback by how much she had changed.
Because of its low cost and high protein content, it is an excellent choice for those who are travelling on a tight budget in Iceland. It is also available in a variety of flavours. The flavour of Skyr that had pears or berries was my personal favourite.
Dark Rye Bread from a Hot Spring (Rúgbrauð)
Rye bread is a well-liked kind of food in Iceland, and it is often used as an accompaniment to various types of fish. While you’re in Iceland, don’t forget to pick up a loaf of rye bread that’s been baked in a hot spring — it’s a unique and delicious flavour combination!
Cod is without a doubt the most prevalent and popular form of saltwater fish found all over the globe, maybe second only to salmon. Fish is available for purchase in stores all over the world, so it is quite likely that you have previously tasted it. However, the cod that is taken in the Atlantic Ocean or that is farmed there is the healthiest cod that can be found.
The abundance of diverse marine life in the Atlantic Ocean enables Icelandic cod to thrive and grow to impressive sizes by allowing them to ingest a great deal of nutritious seafood. As a direct consequence of this, they do not have many natural enemies remaining, which enables them to naturally reproduce at a rapid rate.
Cod is always served fresh in Icelandic restaurants, and many of these establishments also provide a “catch of the day” option on their menus, which often includes cod. One of the most traditional Icelandic dishes, codhead, can be found on the menu at Matur og drykkur, a restaurant in Reykjavik that takes great satisfaction in being the guardian of traditional Icelandic cuisine.
In spite of its menacing reputation, this does not seem to be very dangerous. The codhead has been cooked on a grill for the last half an hour, and there is a great deal of juicy, fatty flesh on it that may be eaten.
The adorable and sociable marine bird is, in fact, a dish offered at certain dining establishments. On the other hand, the majority of puffin eaters are tourists. Nevertheless, Icelanders consumed puffin during difficult times when there was a lack of food available. However, this is not something that is often seen in Icelandic cooking at all.
The puffin meat that is often served in restaurants is smoked in a manner similar to that of pastrami. Those who have sampled it claim that it has a taste that is both unique and robust.
At the Saegreifinn restaurant in Reykjavik, one of the most popular selections on the menu is the Icelandic langoustine soup, which literally translates to “little lobster.” The South Coast of Iceland is the only place in the world where Icelandic lobsters are captured in the wild; they are never cultivated.
The flesh of the lobster is very soft and flavorful, and the soup made from it is thick and salty, making it a true delicacy that can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Toast or baguette slices are often served with it when it is eaten.
Meat from Whales
Whale flesh is another contentious kind of cuisine that is consumed in Iceland, and seeing it may make some visitors uncomfortable. Spear-drift whaling was the method that was used to start whaling in the 12th century. This was the case up until the 20th century, when firms from other countries began bringing in more advanced and efficient methods to kill whales.
The Icelandic Directorate of Fisheries is in charge of regulating whaling, and according to their rules, the only whales that may be hunted are minkes and fin whales. The minke whale is the species that is sold in Icelandic restaurants and grocery stores, whereas the fin whale is sent to Japan to be processed there.
Whale meat is not something that is often consumed by Icelanders. Approximately 65% of whale meat is supplied to restaurants, which also indicates that the majority of people who have a need for whale meat are tourists.
Traditional soup made with lamb and other meats (Kjotsupa)
The chewier parts of the lamb are used in the preparation of this soup, together with a number of other Icelandic herbs and vegetables. During the winter, the vast majority of Icelanders consume this food.
The first person known to have set foot on Icelandic territory was a Norseman by the name of Hrafna-Flki, who inspired the naming of the Icelandic Floki whisky. Only components that can be obtained in Iceland are used in its production (freshwater, herbs, barley).
The flavours vanilla, white coffee, fresh bread, pepper, and bubblegum, with a final taste that is spicy, make up the taste palette of this product.
Opal & Tòpas
The Icelanders’ preferred liquors have a flavour reminiscent of menthol and eucalyptus, and they have been drinking them from infancy (OK let us explain).
Because the same firm that creates these spirits also sells non-alcoholic chewable candies with the same tastes, Icelandic children are already acquainted with the flavours of this drink from a young age, even before they are old enough to start ingesting the real alcohol in it.
When they are finally mature enough to consume Opal and Tapas, the flavour of these drinks will remind them of pleasant childhood memories and the sweets that they have always enjoyed eating. We are unable to determine whether or whether it is brilliant or insane, but it certainly seems to be successful in Iceland.
Sheep’s head (Svið)
To be honest, this traditional Icelandic dish is not available everywhere, nor is it consumed on a daily basis by the vast majority of Icelanders, but it is nevertheless deserving of a mention here since it is so important to Icelandic culture.
Some people claim that the cheeks of a smoked sheep’s head are the most delicious meat that you will ever put in your mouth. If you like trying new and interesting cuisines when travelling, this is absolutely one of those things you should try.
Classic fish stew (Plokkfiskur)
The Icelandic word for this fish stew is “Plokkfiskur,” and it is another one of the country’s classic dishes. It includes fillets of cod or haddock that have been cooked in water with potatoes that have been mashed, scrambled, or left whole, as seen in the picture.
It’s likely the Icelandic meal that most tourists are most excited to try when they’re there. It used to be a method of preserving leftovers for the locals, but nowadays it’s more of a standard meal, and most families have their own spin on how to make it.
Dried Fish Jerky (Harðfiskur)
In Iceland, hardfiskur is a dish that is elevated to the status of a delicacy, and it can be found all across the country. If you like beef jerky, there is a good possibility that you will also enjoy the Icelandic version of this snack and discover that this unique food may be rather delicious. It tastes finest when accompanied by some butter made in Iceland.
However, the odour will soon disseminate, so you should consume it as quickly as possible.
Freshwaters in Iceland are home to populations of arctic char (Iceland has many crystal clear rivers, lakes and streams). It is the most frequent species of fish found in the island’s freshwater environments, and the nation is the greatest producer of Arctic char in the world.
It is captured in the wild and also raised in farms, but they do not get any artificial goods or medications of any kind. This kind of fish may not be all that well known to you, but the fact that it belongs to the Salmonidae family indicates that it is closely connected to salmon in some way. It has a flavour that is reminiscent of salmon and also trout; it is airy, sweet, and buttery (somewhere in the middle between them).
There is a wide range of preparation methods available for consuming Arctic char. It may be prepared by cooking, smoking, grilling, broiling, or barbecuing; it can be eaten with mushrooms, vegetables, or fries; overall, the manner in which it is prepared can be quite freely according to the individual’s preferences.
Fermented Shark (Hákarl)
Another Icelandic specialty is the Hakarl, which is essentially fermented shark and may be made from Greenland shark or other sleeping sharks. This meal is known as the national food of Iceland.
In days gone by, the shark flesh was first preserved by being buried for three months in the sand, and then it was hung out to dry for another three to four months after that. These days, anything from five to ten kilogrammes of beef is hacked up, placed in boxes, and allowed to ferment for six to nine weeks; the boxes are then hung for three to four months.
In spite of the fact that Icelanders consume this food throughout the year, many visitors report that it is among the most revolting foods they have ever had. The flavour of the shark flesh is somewhat reminiscent of ammonia.