Icelandic cuisine has a long history, and although it has not changed much from the Viking era, the chefs have developed impressive imagination in the way they prepare food. Icelandic chefs concentrate more on using readily available ingredients in developing their foods. For example, Iceland is surrounded by water, making fish a common part of their meals.
If you visit Icelandic restaurants, you are most likely going to be served seafood although they also include lamb and dairy. Since 2004, Iceland holds an annual Food and Fun festival. This festival is a competition among chefs whereby the chef’s use freshly produced ingredients from the country to create innovative dishes. Below is the most famous Icelandic food.
1. Minke Whale
As weird as it may sound, whale meat is a common food in Iceland, and any Icelander will tell you that minke whale is not an endangered species. You can either get seared minke whale like ahi tuna or skewered in steaks like a kebab. It is prepared by grilling it making it tough, chewy and highly flavored with fish oil, or it can be cured then slightly seared. Its taste is between beef and tuna, but it is greatly affected by the preparation method and who is preparing it.
2. Hakarl (Greenland Shark)
If you visit Iceland, hakarl is one of the most infamous dishes that you will be requested to try, at least once. The Greenland shark or the sleeper shark is prepared by burying it underground for 6-12 weeks to allow fermentation, and then it is hung for drying for four to five months. Once ready, hakarl is served in small cubes with shots of Brennevin. It has a distinct tart of urine. Although it is available in Icelandic stores all year long, it is mainly eaten in midwinter when Icelanders are celebrating their traditional foods.
These are simply Icelandic smoked lambs, which are quite common in Iceland due to the way sheep are reared in the country. They are allowed to roam in the highlands throughout summer without any supervision. While grazing, they feed on grass and herbs which give their meat a strong and complex flavor. After slaughtering, the farmer uses traditional methods to smoke the sheep fueling the fire using dried sheep dung. Once ready, smoked lamb is served with mashed potatoes, green peas, red beets, and béchamel sauce. The sheep head is served as svio, which is prepared by removing the fur and then cutting the head into two halves. The brain is removed and the head boiled to be served with turnip and mashed potatoes.
This is a dairy product which is common in Iceland and resembles Greek yogurt but with a milder flavor. It is made by skimming pasteurized milk then treating it with a bacteria culture only found in Iceland. Skyr is very common in Icelandic breakfast dishes and also and essential Icelandic childhood dish. You can easily get skyr from most stores in Iceland although in the recent past, the dish which has been Icelandic for over a thousand years, is now making leaps beyond borders. It is available in US and UK stores and comes in a variety of fruit flavors.