What food do people eat in Iceland? I received this question from a couple of curious friends who couldn’t fathom the kind of food served in Iceland. Pretty understandable because after all, this island nation is located near the arctic circle, while I came from the equator. Icelandic cuisine has a long history since the Viking days and main foods are lamb, fish and other seafood due to the proximity to the ocean. In my travels to Iceland, I came across some rather interesting Icelandic food – ranging from the normal but uber delicious, weird and too cute. (Yes, cute.)
Icelandic lamb is super yummy! Some pages on the internet even claim that Iceland has the best lamb in the world. It is THAT delicious. Well, it’s easy to understand why as the Icelanders let their sheep roam freely to graze on grass on highlands in the summer months. If you ever drive around Iceland’s country side during summer, you will definitely notice more sheep than the number of cars on the road. Given the pristine environment – fresh air and clean mountain streams, the lamb meat turns out to be extremely tender with very little hint of the ‘lamb game flavour’ (you know what I mean). We ate so much lamb during our stay in Iceland than I ever had so far.
2. Smjör Butter
Smjör Icelandic butter tastes so creamy and buttery. The butter has a deep yellow color and it was so good that we smothered our breakfast bread with a thick layer of butter every morning. Seriously, not all butter are created equal! The great taste could probably be accorded to the ban in usage of antibiotics and hormones in Iceland. The cows are also grass-fed and once again, I always believe that this has something to do with the general lack of pollution and clean environment that the Icelandic cows grow up in!
3. Harðfiskur – Dried Icelandic Fish
Harðfiskur (pronounced as ‘har-th-fiskur’) is a traditional Icelandic food. It is basically dried fish which is popular as a snack and eaten like potato chips. It is usually eaten dipped in salted butter and allowed to soften in the mouth before chewing. I tried this and found it to be too unique for my palate. It tasted and smelled rather fishy (it is dried fish after all). We had to double bag the pack of Hardfiskur to prevent the smell from getting to the rented car!
Skyr is delicious! Skyr is a traditional Icelandic food which has a history dating back to thousands of years. It is a cultured dairy product with a bacterial culture similar to yogurt but it is technically a kind of soft cheese and not yogurt. The texture is similar to strained ‘Greek’ yogurt and is actually low fat and made from skimmed milk. Traditionally, skyr is served with sugar and cream. Now with commercialization, you can find many flavours of Skyr (berries, fruits, vanilla, caramel etc) available at supermarkets. It tastes slightly sourish and has a tinge of sweetness.
No way!!! How could anyone eat this cute fat lil’ seabird with colourful beak??! Puffin is rather commonly served in Icelandic restaurants. I did not try this dish T_T For those who may be interested, it is said that puffin is usually smoked or grilled, and it is a red meat tasting somewhat like beef with a gamey and fishy taste. The meat is also said to be more tender than duck.
Iceland is the other country apart from Japan which I’ve come across where horse meat is a served as a cuisine. So much for the horse meat scare in Europe, but horses are actually eaten in Iceland. Icelandic horses are seriously too adorable to be bred for meat… T_T
7. Kjötsúpa – Traditional Icelandic Lamb Soup
A delicious clear soup of lamb, potatoes, carrots, onions and some other vegetables. It feels good to have this hot bowl of stew on a cold day.
8. Pylsur – Icelandic Hot Dog
Icelanders love their hot dogs. Hot dogs are ubiquitous and can be easily found everywhere from gas stations, convenience stalls, stands etc. The hot dog is usually made with a combination of lamb, beef and pork, and served with sweet mustard, crispy fried onions (cronions), ketchup and remoulade (a mayonnaise-like sauce). The best hot dog stand in town can be found at Reykjavik’s Bæjarins beztu pylsur.
9. Emmessís Ice Cream
The Emmessís soft serve ice cream is so creamy, velvety and rich! The soft serve came in cones or in the photo above, the cup of goodness was a mixed up version with Snickers chunks, Daim and Oreo cookies. It tasted really calorific and I’m sure it is 🙂
If you are interested to find out more about a whole lot of other fear factor-ish Icelandic food available such as fermented shark, blood pudding and cod tongues, you may wish to check out this website on Guide to Iceland which I found. Take a deep breath before clicking! 😀