Icelandic food is simple to prepare and hearty. The national cuisine of the islanders is even considered rude. This stereotype has evolved over the centuries. Locals do not abuse spices and herbs, preferring the taste of natural products.
Difficult climatic conditions contributed to the appearance in their diet of some exotic dishes, incl. rotten shark, svida, hritspungur, etc.
General characteristics of the national Icelandic cuisine
Iceland has few traditional multicomponent dishes. However, ecologically clean lamb, veal, pork are grown here, and many species of fish, molluscs and crustaceans are caught in the ocean waters.
These products are the basis for the manufacture of traditional dishes. Iceland loves cheeses and other dairy products. Traditional volcanic bread is prepared here. In addition, high-quality butter can always be found on the table of the islanders.
The climate in Iceland is rather harsh, which is reflected in the formation of culinary traditions in this region. The islanders prefer hearty vegetable and meat dishes, complemented by bread.
Due to the temperature difference, yields in Iceland are often low, so in the past, in hungry years, residents prepared porridge from local herbs. In addition, their diet is dominated by dishes from fatty meats and fish. The favorite vegetable of the inhabitants of the island is potatoes, because it is highly nutritious.
Cereals are more often used for dressing local stews. They are rarely used as a side dish. In addition, many types of filled breads and pastries are prepared on the island.
The water in Iceland is of high quality, so it can be drunk even from the tap, but after heating it smells like sulfur. This is reflected in the taste and aroma of the food.
It is believed that the national cuisine of the inhabitants of Iceland is not inferior in usefulness to the Japanese and Mediterranean.
Studies carried out by American and British scientists have shown that the islanders’ diet has a pronounced anti-inflammatory effect. In addition, it has a beneficial effect on the functioning of the digestive system.
An overabundance of plant fibers and antioxidants, unsaturated omega-3 fats in fish has a positive effect on the work of the cardiovascular system. The islanders do not abuse sweets, therefore they are less likely to suffer from diabetes and obesity.
The history of development
There are few references to traditional food and drink in the old Icelandic literature. More data was obtained from archaeological excavations of ancient Viking settlements.
Scientists have found that the diet of the first inhabitants of the island was based on the meat of sheep, horses, pigs, wild and domestic birds. In those days, they ate shellfish, crustaceans and fish.
People often starved when livestock died from disease and lack of feed. In the period XX-XVIII centuries. residents who converted to Christianity stopped eating horse meat.
With the development of agriculture, the ration of the islanders began to depend on the harvest. The food situation has largely changed since the arrival of the potato on the island.
If in France and some other European countries this root crop was first grown for feeding livestock, then in Ireland people began to use it almost immediately. In the XIV century. the cold snap caused by the Little Ice Age made it impossible to grow cereals and most vegetable crops.
The dishes were kept as simple as possible. exotic spices, which were common in Western Europe and Britain already at the beginning of the Middle Ages, did not get to Ireland.
During this period, cheese making was actively developing on the island. In addition, local craftsmen began to use wild berries and herbs to make sauces. A new round of development of the culinary idea in Ireland falls on the XIX-XX centuries. At this time, new spices, fruits and vegetables began to be actively imported to the island.
The cultivation of the latter in Iceland has always been difficult due to the too cold climate. The inhabitants began to develop agriculture only in the middle of the 19th century, installing greenhouses near geysers and in other areas with high volcanic activity. The cultivation of tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and cabbage has become widespread on the island. Before that, vegetables and fruits were imported from the mainland and more southern islands.
Basic cooking methods
Most Irish people live in private homes and have kept traditional cooking methods. Thermal processing of food is often carried out on an open fire or in a stove, using peat as fuel instead of firewood. there are few trees on the island. First courses are often boiled and fried.
To increase the storage time, fish and cattle meat are dried and dried in the warm season. In addition, smoking is common in Iceland. The inhabitants use the tectonic activity of the island for cooking.
For example, local traditional bread is baked in metal containers, which are tightly closed and buried for a while in the ground heated by a volcano.
Must-haves to try in Iceland: Popular dishes
Iceland is a must visit to see volcanoes, geysers and natural landscapes, but there are many dishes to try. in other countries they are not found.
Special attention should be paid to:
- rotten shark;
- svid, or piles;
- кайстур хвалюр;
- whale meat;
- volcanic bread, etc.
Not all Icelandic dishes have a specific taste, which may seem strange or even unpleasant to most non-local people. The islanders’ homemade food is tasty and satisfying like a peasant. It is served in large portions with traditional Icelandic drinks.
Fiskibollur is a popular fish cakes in Iceland.
The harsh climatic conditions of the island have contributed to the emergence of a number of exotic dishes, as in the years of famine, they helped the residents to survive. Such food has a specific taste and smell, therefore, when visiting Iceland, you should pay attention to it first of all.
The rotten meat of the Greenlandic polar shark, which often appears in the coastal waters of the island, is a traditional local snack. In Iceland, it is called hakarl.
To prepare the dish, the meat is placed in boxes with a pebble-sand mixture for 8 weeks. Previously, raw materials were buried in the ground. This is necessary so that putrid juices containing a lot of ammonia and other toxic substances flow out of the product and it becomes safe for consumption. After that, the meat is cut into small cubes.
It has an elastic texture and a rather pleasant taste, but a rotten smell. After consuming the product, an unpleasant aftertaste remains. Locals often eat it on New Years and Christmas.
Hritspungur, or hrutspungur
A traditional Icelandic dish made from the testicles of a young sheep. They are pre-cleaned from the film and marinated in whey or sour milk. Then the raw materials are pressed into one pie and baked. This dish is consumed only on holidays. The meat has a pleasant taste and aroma.
Svid, or piles
A dish of a lamb’s head cut in half, complete with teeth, eyes and brain. The product is thoroughly cleaned of wool and marinated in sour milk, then boiled until tender. The most delicious are the brain, cheeks and eyes. The islanders do not eat ears. For residents, this dish is a delicacy.
A dish prepared from offal, fat and blood of a sheep. These ingredients are placed in the cavity of the sheep’s stomachs, which are subsequently sutured. Slatur is baked for several hours and served with sweet rice pudding. This combination of flavors is unusual, but the locals love this dish.
Fish, shellfish and marine crustaceans are an important part of the islanders’ diet. Without these products, life in Iceland would be impossible. Fish and seafood dishes are served in all local restaurants and are often home-cooked.
Fish of the day – рыба дня
Fiskur dugsins is the traditional fish dish of the day.
Its appearance on the menus of most restaurants on the island is due to the fact that the waters around Iceland are rich in seafood. Most often, the dish of the day is prepared from cod, catfish, haddock, etc.
A large portion of baked fillet is served with a vegetable side dish, herbs and local sauce.
Hardfiskur, or harofiskur
This is dried or dried fish, more often haddock and cod. It is pre-salted and then hung to dry. Iceland has strong winds and fish dries quickly. The meat turns out to be quite hard, so in most cases it is served with greased butter.
Humarsupa is a lobster soup
Humarsupa is a traditional Icelandic creamy lobster soup. In addition to seafood, it includes heavy cream, flour, spices and vegetables. Crab meat is often used instead of lobster. The soup has a rich and delicate flavor. The dish is served with traditional rye bread.
Humarsupa is a delicate creamy lobster soup.
The national dish of the Icelandic locals. To prepare it, the fish is covered with a thin layer of salt, which removes moisture from the pulp. This increases the shelf life of the product. Immediately before consumption, the fish is placed in water for several hours. After soaking, it is boiled and served with potatoes.
Fiskibollur are small fish cakes. Outwardly, they look like fried cheese cakes. Their main components are eggs, minced fish fillet, flour, spices.
Small cutlets are fried on both sides until golden brown and served with a creamy sauce.
Frozen Fiskibollur is sold in all supermarkets in Iceland. This semi-finished product is popular with local residents.
Pickled salmon prepared in Iceland according to a special recipe. It is often additionally grilled before serving. Boiled potatoes are often used as a side dish. Top the dish is garnished with chopped dill and green onions.
A traditional Icelandic dish made from fatty herring. The fish is baked in herbal batter. It turns out juicy and soft. It is often served with mashed potatoes or vegetable salad. Often this dish serves as an appetizer for alcoholic beverages.
Sjavarrettasupa – seafood soup
Syauvarrechtasupa is a complex multicomponent dish that includes shrimps, fish fillets, lobsters, mussels. Seaweed is often added to it.
When preparing the soup, heavy cream, onions and spices are used. There is little liquid in this soup. The dish has a mild creamy taste. It is served with butter and traditional bread.
A traditional Icelandic dish made from the hypoglossal muscle of cod. There are several options for its preparation. The product is often boiled and served with potatoes. There is no particular taste or aroma in this dish. Another recipe uses the herb to bake the cod’s hypoglossal muscle in the oven.
Gellur – cod with potatoes.
Smoked whale fat previously soaked in lactic acid. Due to the imposed restrictions on the catch of cetaceans, this dish is now extremely rarely prepared in Iceland.
Meatballs made from whale meat soaked in sour milk, with the addition of spices and onions. It is mainly consumed on holidays. However, if you wish, the dish can be tasted in most local restaurants.
Plohkfiskur is a second dish that is often prepared at home by local residents. It is baked fish with boiled potatoes and a thick creamy sauce.
It is most commonly made from fatty haddock or cod. Separately prepared components are additionally baked in the oven. Plohkfiskure is served with vegetables and black bread.
Plokkfiskur – baked fish with potatoes and sauce.
Pickled Seal Fins
Fermented seal fins are among the Icelandic delicacies. Raw materials, previously soaked in lactic acid, are placed in barrels, and then fish oil and local herbs are added to it.
Marinate the dish for at least 2 weeks. With this treatment, the meat will turn out tough. It has a spicy taste and pleasant aroma. More often it is served as a snack.
Many dishes are prepared from whale meat in Iceland. Steaks and kebabs are fried from it. In addition, it is eaten raw with a sauce. Most often, for the preparation of delicacies, minke whale meat is used, for which fishing is allowed.
Most meat dishes in Iceland are made from lamb. Stewed and boiled horse meat is less common in the menu of restaurants. Other types of meat are almost never used in local cuisine, because cattle are not raised on the island due to the harsh climatic conditions.
Lamb thighs, lamb loin
Lambalayri, or lambachriggyur, is a traditional Icelandic dish made from lamb grown on the island. The product is baked with herbs. The meat is tender and juicy. Potatoes are more often used as a side dish, less often rice porridge. Local creamy sauce and vegetable salad are served with the dish.
Delicate lamb meat for a family dinner.
Grilled lamb or ram meat until charcoal. The inside of the steaks is soft and juicy. When cooking meat, use a minimum amount of oil. Often the product is pre-soaked in sour milk. The dish is served with a creamy sauce, fresh vegetable salad or sauerkraut.
A traditional Icelandic holiday dish. To prepare it, lamb is removed from films and veins. After that, the thin steaks are smoked on birch wood. Sheep dung is often added to give them a special flavor. After this treatment, the meat is boiled. The dish is served with baked potatoes and thick cheese sauce.
A dish prepared from wild poultry meat is a dead end. Boiled breasts in milk sauce, grilled. These birds nest in large numbers on the island, so lundi is a seasonal treat. Regardless of the type of heat treatment, puffin meat has a rancid flavor.
National soup made from lamb, potatoes and vegetables. This is a hearty and tasty dish. It is served in almost all cafes and restaurants in Iceland. It tastes little different from beef soup. On the island, it is often eaten with mayonnaise or creamy sauce.
There are not many traditional desserts invented by the Icelandic people. However, some sweets are prepared and served by the islanders in all restaurants and cafes.
Icelandic thin cakes. They taste like sweet lavash. It is often served with whipped cream and berry jam.
This type of bread is prepared in the ground, which is hot due to volcanic activity. Bread in special forms is laid for several hours and sometimes days. It is prepared from rye flour, so it turns out to be dark and has a sweetish taste and an unusual earthy smell.
Volcanic bread is worth trying on the island.
Icelandic tortillas. They taste like donuts. They are often prepared at home and also served in all cafes. In cold weather, it is customary to drink flat cakes with hot chocolate.
It can only conditionally be attributed to desserts. This is a fermented milk product made from sheep’s milk, which is similar in consistency to thick yogurt. Pieces of fruits and berries are often added to it. The islanders use it for breakfast.
Many types of bread are baked in Iceland. For its manufacture, rye and wheat flour are used. Sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and other types of seeds are often added.
The easiest Icelandic bread. It is baked at home and in bakeries. In supermarkets, Rugbraise is sold in packages from 300 g to 1 kg. It has a pleasant rye aroma and a dense texture.
Traditional Christmas bread, which is baked in the form of flat cakes with a perforated pattern. Outwardly, it resembles a snowflake. To taste, such cakes are close to brushwood.
Iceland is a cold island, so hot drinks are especially popular with locals. In addition, special traditions of making and drinking alcohol have developed here.
The most popular drink among the adult population of Iceland. The grains of this plant are not grown on the island, so they have to be imported here. Locals often drink this drink with cream.
Local alcohol made from caraway seeds and potatoes. The fermentation process takes approximately 2-3 months. After that, the raw material goes through 2 stages of distillation. The strength of the drink is 37.5 °. Rotten shark meat is often used as a snack.
Most Icelandic dishes are simple enough, but it can be difficult to get the ingredients you need to prepare exotic food. Only a few recipes can be reproduced at home.
Icelandic lobster soup
To prepare this dish, you will need the following ingredients:
- lobster – 500 g;
- stalked celery – 3 pcs.;
- tomatoes in their own juice – 1 can;
- butter – 4 tablespoons;
- fish fillet – 150 g;
- dry white wine – 300 ml;
- cream – 50 ml;
- leeks – 2 heads;
- water – 1.5 liters;
- flour – 3 tablespoons;
- cabbage – 1 kg;
- carrots – 2 pcs.;
- greens – 1 bunch;
- salt and pepper to taste.
- The lobster is washed, the tail is separated and boiled for 5-7 minutes in boiling water, and then peeled from the shell.
- The meat is covered with cling film and refrigerated.
- The cephalothorax, salt and pepper, as well as herbs are placed in the broth remaining after boiling the tail.
- After 5 minutes, place the fish fillets in a saucepan and boil for another 20 minutes.
- The vegetables are peeled and finely chopped, and then lightly fried in a saucepan in butter.
- The broth is filtered and set aside.
- The hot vegetables are transferred to a saucepan, mixed with flour, and then tomatoes, broth and cream are added.
- The soup is boiled for about 15 minutes and the wine is added.
- The mixture is allowed to cool and puree.
- The lobster is chopped and lightly fried in butter, and then added to the soup.
Most often, the dish is served in shallow bowls, because it is hearty and difficult to eat in large portions. Decorate the top with herbs. If necessary, the lobster can be replaced with crayfish or large shrimp.