Along with being the most scenic and magnificent country, Iceland has a lot to offer. It also includes giving tourists a taste of traditional Icelandic cuisine.
As Iceland is a remote island surrounded by the cold Atlantic Ocean, the barren land did not have many food resources for centuries. When the first settlers brought lambs, their meat was included in the local’s staple diet.
The clean Atlantic Ocean also has healthy and plentiful sea life, which locals started using in their dishes. Thus, even though one might take a look at Icelandic food and think it is simple, their cuisines are still the healthiest worldwide.
As with every other cuisine found around the globe, Icelandic food not only has its own unique flavours but also reflects the history and culture of the country. For a genuine experience of Iceland, trying out the country’s signature food is highly recommended.
To save you time, we have carefully curated the top seven foods you should taste while exploring Iceland:
1. Icelandic hot dog
Icelandic hot dogs are often known as the national dish of Iceland. It is famous among tourists and locals alike. Several stands around Iceland have been known for serving hot dogs for many years.
A signature Icelandic hotdog uses fresh lamb meat, served on a warm bun, along with crispy white onions and raw white onions. It is then topped with ketchup, pylsusinnep (brown mustard), and remoulade (mustard, herbs, mayo, and capers).
These hot dogs are affordable and found everywhere in Iceland, making them an unmissable food to try during your trip.
2. Smoked lamb
Also known as Hangikjöt in the local language, smoked lamb is a traditional dish served during Christmas in Iceland.
This is one of the country’s most famous and important foods, as Icelandic sheep are one of the purest breeds in the world. These lambs are also considered gourmet meat and are used mostly in global cuisine.
Smoked lamb is healthy, delicious, and tender. It is usually eaten during lunch or dinner during the Christmas holiday. Smoked lamb is traditionally served with cooked potatoes, a flavourful bechamel sauce, pickled red cabbage, and peas. However, there are several innovative ways to cook smoked lamb, a local delicacy.
Leftover Hangikjöt can also be used on flatbread, in sandwiches, or eaten as a snack.
3. Icelandic lamb soup
Kjötsúpa or lamb soup, is another national delicacy of Iceland. As lamb was the only meat available for a long time in the country, this soup traditionally uses lamb meat. Thus, Kjötsúpa has been eaten in Iceland for centuries.
Lamb soup is ideal for long, cold winter days. This comfort food typically uses fresh-fed lamb meat, root vegetables, and onions. Kjötsúpa can also be made with other types of meat, like beef, and even supplemented with barley or rice.
The healthy soup is delicious and gives you the energy boost needed during chilly days.
Skyr is an Icelandic yoghurt that has been part of the country’s dairy products for several years. Although similar to Greek yoghourt, Skyr is milder. It has also gained international fame due to its delightful flavour and combination of high protein and fat.
Skyr is made from pasteurised skim milk and bacterial culture. Technically, skyr is a soft cheese but is widely regarded as a thick yoghurt. Locals eat yoghurt with delicious and healthy desserts combined with milk, fruit, and berries. It is also popularly used in smoothies, ice cream, and skyrkaka, a lighter alternative to cheesecake.
This creamy delicacy can also be enjoyed with distinct flavours like blueberry and coconut.
5. Fish stew
Plokkfiskur, or fish stew, is a favourite stew in Icelandic homes. Although this dish is relatively easy to make, it is packed with all the delicious flavours needed. Cooked and mashed Atlantic cod, milk, flour, potatoes, and onions are used to make fish stew.
The idea of fish stew came from using and mixing leftovers from other Icelandic foods. Today, fine dining restaurants prepare this dish by adding a modern twist to it. However, if you want to eat like a layman, simple ingredients like fish, potatoes, onion, butter, and milk can make a classic plokkfiskur.
Icelanders also add a small amount of Béarnaise sauce to enhance the taste further.
6. Fermented shark
Fermented shark, also known as Hàkarl, is a traditional dish in Iceland. Although not commonly eaten by locals, this food is important to Iceland’s heritage.
A fermented shark is not generally suggested to tourists, but you can always try it out if you are an adventurous foodie. Sharks go through a particular fermenting process, after which they are hung outside to dry for at least four to five months.
You can find Hàkarl served in cubes on cocktail sticks. As the smell is much stronger than the taste, first-time eaters are advised to pinch their noses while taking a bite. Just like the locals, you can quickly take a sip of the local spirit, Brennivín, to wash the taste down.
Centuries ago, Icelanders usually ate this dish as food resources were scarce. Today, not many people eat fermented sharks. Although Hàkarl isn’t the tastiest, it remains significant in Icelandic culture.
7. Rye bread
Rye bread is a traditional bread that is rooted in Iceland’s culture. It is either baked in a pot or steamed in special wooden casks, which are then buried near a hot spring. This is why rye bread is also called hot spring bread.
The bread appears to be dark brown in colour, spongy, and sweet to taste. You can top the bread with butter, smoked lamb, smoked salmon, cheese, or pickled herring. Icelanders also eat rye bread as a side dish with fish stew, or Plokkfiskur.
The rye bread is available at most grocery stores across the country.
Along with Iceland’s beauty, it is also the traditional food that draws tourists to this destination. Mark these dishes on your list, as your whole trip would be incomplete without having a taste of traditional Icelandic food.
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