Monday, 23 July 2018

Typical Foods in Iceland and Icelandic Cuisine

Somehow, someway, Icelandic food has gotten a bad reputation. I won't stand for it anymore! It's not fair! People all around the world think our diets solely consist of Svið (boiled sheep's head) and fermented shark. Iceland is full of tasty foods, and yet I mainly meet tourists who convey their hesitancy to eat our most common foods. I am here to tell you that we have many delicious meals. And I have proof! Here is a list of typical foods found in Iceland.

Dried fish and charcoal bread are typical Icelandic cuisine

Skyr - Iceland’s Superfood


Skyr isn’t exactly yogurt, and yet it isn’t exactly cheese. Most people when they first try it say that it has the consistency of yogurt, but its taste is much milder. Icelanders eat skyr at all times of the day, but it is definitely a favorite breakfast dish. You usually eat skyr with berries or milk at breakfast, but you can even make smoothies out of it! The superfood is filled with healthy proteins and vitamins and has virtually no carbs or fats.

The world is slowly but surely becoming obsessed with our dairy product, but it isn’t a new phenomenon. Skyr has been around for hundreds of years. Maybe that's why Icelandic folk are often regarded as the best looking and strongest people in the world.  You wish I were joking but look at Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson aka the Mountain from Game of Thrones.

Slow Roasted Lamb - Iceland’s Savory Treat


Iceland is known for having heavenly lamb dishes, and the reasons are based in history. When our ancestors first came to Iceland’s shores, they let their sheep roam free. That tradition, combined with the fact that the sheep here have had an all natural diet for hundreds of years, yields savory, soft, succulent lamb. Icelandic lamb is considered gourmet by many countries' standards. We really only eat lamb for Christmas dinner, or for celebrations. However, if you are visiting, and you have a craving for lamb, worry not! Most restaurants have a lamb dish offered on their dinner menu!

Roasted lamb is a traditional Icelandic food

Harðfiskur - Iceland’s Dried Fish 


Harðfiskur is one of the few culinary relics that people today still enjoy (not many people in Iceland are still raving about fermented shark). For hundreds of years, we have been drying fish and eating it with most meals. It is technically considered a jerky, but you can spread butter on it like toast! I know what you are thinking: fish toast, that sounds...fishy. On paper, it doesn’t seem appetizing, but we love it here. Not only is it a great snack, but like skyr, it is packed full of protein and vitamins.

Rúgbrauð - Iceland’s Hotspring Bread 


Rúgbrauð is a traditional dark rye bread that utilizes Iceland’s geothermal heat in its formation. For centuries we have cooked the dough using the natural warmth that comes from surrounding hot springs. Basically, it is super yummy magic bread that comes from the ground. How cool is that! The bread doesn’t have a crust, can be kept for a very long time, and is extremely sweet. No wonder our forefathers created it. Our notoriously harsh winters make challenging to keep foods fresh. If you have never tried it, it is delightful. I would recommend a hefty slathering of butter with it.

Rúgbrauð or Icelandic rye bread is a traditional food in Iceland

Icelandic Fish 


This category is not specific due to the sheer volume of fish that we are fortunate to have in Iceland. Iceland has over 300 species of saltwater fish and several freshwater salmon varieties. It is dealer’s choice when it comes to choosing a fresh fish option.

You may have heard that Iceland prides itself in being extremely eco-friendly, and that characteristic shows itself in our food. Our fish have an abundance of natural flavor due to the lack of pollution in our waters. I would argue that the fish in Iceland is probably some of the freshest in the world. If you had one fish to choose to eat during your visit to Iceland, I would recommend either cod or salmon. They are probably the two most common fish options we have here.

Typical Foods in Iceland and Icelandic Cuisine


I hope after reading this post, you no longer think that Iceland is all boiled sheep's head and whale blubber. It is true that our more traditional dishes are not the most appetizing for tourists, but if you are visiting, I would have to recommend that you try one of the traditional recipes. To truly get a sense for the culture you need to step out of comfort zone and try something you may never try again. Everyday Icelanders though, we eat fish, hot dogs, ice cream, skyr, lamb much more often than we do the antiquated dishes from our distant past!

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