Iceland is a progressive modern country, but it is founded on old traditions and folk legends passed down from generation to generation. As such, Icelandic culture and food exudes a strong individuality distinct from other nations. It goes without staying that you must experience the local heritage of food if you are visiting!
Here are our Top 10 MUST-TRY Recommendations:
Contents in this Article
This is a cultured dairy product, and packaged like yogurt. In fact, it is similar to yogurt in texture, but has a much more viscous consistency. Not surprising, because it is technically a soft cheese. Skyr is popular in Iceland and is readily available in different flavours and sizes in the supermarkets. Known as one of the Icelandic superfoods, it is well known for its low fat content and high protein levels.
2. Rúgbrauð (Icelandic Rye Bread)
This is Icelandic straight rye bread, of a dark brown consistency and dense. It taste rather sweet for bread, and is baked the Icelandic way – in a wooden cask buried in the ground near a hot spring. Icelanders view this as a healthy dish. It is served with raw fish, usually haddock or herring, and with a good gulp of ice cold ‘Black Death’ (see No 3 below).
3. Íslenskt Brennivín aka Black Death
This is a beverage defined as an Icelandic schnapps (strong alcoholic drink resembling gin). Made from fermented potatoes and flavoured with caraway seeds, it is commonly known as The Black Death in Iceland, and is very much a part of Icelandic food culture. Usually served chilled and eaten with hot steaming Rúgbrauð (See No 2 above).
Who can think of eating these gentle giants from the ocean? But whale meat is still served in Japan, and also in Iceland. In Iceland, the Minke whales are harvested for this purpose. Some restaurants serve whale meat together with puffin (see No 5 below) as a small starter dish, and we strongly recommend ordering just the starter instead of a main dish to sample. Depending on the way that it was prepared, whale meat can be very tender and has a strong beefy aftertaste.
Why anyone would want to eat this cute little bird is beyond my understanding. Puffins are in abundance during summer and are hunted by the Icelanders for food. It is still served in restaurants today, although we recommend you to try this as a starter dish with the whale. It also taste a little gamey so most people unaccustomed to the taste may not like it.
Sheeps from Iceland graze on mountain herbs, especially thyme, thus giving its meat a unique delicate flavour. It is quite different from the pronounced gaminess of lamb that we get over here. Eat it with cranberry sauce and pair it with a bottle of good wine.
7. Horse Steak
Yes, you seen it right. Icelanders eat their horses too. Icelandic horses are prized assets because they were brought to the island by Vikings and have remained pure for the past 1000 years with the absence of the import of other horses. The fitter horses are usually exported as racing horses while the weaker ones are used for consumption.
|Horse Steak (Credits: http://for91days.com)|
8. Hákarl (or Rotten Shark)
I doubt you will get to eat this in many other places other than Iceland. Hákarl is considered a delicacy in Iceland and dates back to ancient times when Icelanders harvest Greenland Sharks in the ocean for their liver and had to throw away the body of the shark which was deemed as poisonous due to its high urea content (sharks have no kidneys to cleanse their blood). To counteract this problem, the body of the shark is left to decay and undergo a fermentation process, thus turning its poisonous meat into a nutritious meal for their people. Today, Hákarl can be purchased readily in Icelandic stores and supermarkets. It retains its smell of ammonia (think of urine) and according to personal experience, taste like what it smells. It is an acquired taste and takes more than one tasting to appreciate its value. Fortunately, they come in bite-size pieces speared on a toothpick – easy and small portion for that first try. Buy it as a gift for your enemy….just kidding.
Iceland’s very own version of orange flavoured fizzy drink (there is a non fizzy version as well). Again, this is readily available in supermarket and hotels and is almost like the National soft drink of Iceland. Although the drink taste just like any other fizzy beverage, we find ourselves missing this drink once we departed from Iceland. Pure addiction.
10. Swiss Mocha and Coffee
So that completes our top 10 foods to try in Iceland!
Have you been to Iceland before? Let us know if there is something else you would like to recommend! 🙂