If interested in getting your taste buds on something very different and sometimes not that fresh then you should read on to see what 4 unique foods you should try in Iceland.
As you might imagine, the ‘olden days’ living on a volcanic island in the North Atlantic were not the most easy going. Conditions and climate were (and still can be!) rough, and fresh foods were not particularly abundant. But Icelanders are a creative and resourceful bunch, both then and now, and what resulted from the harder times are some rather… interesting?… traditional foods that you should most definitely check out while you’re in Iceland.
Yup. That’s a sheep’s head. This traditional dish is actually pretty popular today, so you’re likely to see cousins of the guy featured above posed on styrofoam trays and wrapped in plastic in the local grocery store during your stay in Iceland. Lucky for you, the wool has already been singed off of the svið you’ll find in grocery stores, so you can just take it back to your summerhouse, cook, and enjoy!
Hákarl is shark. Now before you go saying “yeah, sure, but shark is eaten in other countries, too” read on. Hákarl is fermented shark. Fermented. As in rotten. Why and how is the shark fermented? Well, the shark is buried in gravelly sand and weighted down with rocks for 2-3 months to press out the urea and other potentially harmful toxins and left to ferment. It is then cut down to strips to hang-dry for several months before being cut into smaller pieces for your enjoyment. There’s a reason Icelanders chase bites of hákarl with shots of the national schnapps, Brennivín; it’s an acquired taste. While hákarl is available throughout the country, you can learn about the history of the food and see the whole process in action while sampling the goods at the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. If you happen to like it you can even buy a take-away serving to nosh on at your summer house later on!
(Video by Bjorn Hauksson)
What is it with Icelanders and rotten food? Oh yeah… the whole history on an isolated island thing… Well next on the menu is kæst skata, or putrified skate. This is another traditional dish that continues to enjoy popularity in modern times. Every year on Þorláksmessa (December 23) families gather to feast on skata and, presumably hope that they don’t develop lifelong wrinkles on their noses from scrunching them up in response to the scent. Kæst skata originated in Iceland’s west fjords — a truly breathtaking part of the country that you must visit — and once a year you can count on the clean mountain air in the region — and throughout much of the country— being replaced by the distinct smell of pungent fish and ammonia.
This is Iceland’s answer to Scottish haggis. It’s sheep’s blood and fat, with oats, onion and seasonings, stuffed into a sheep stomach that has been sewn into a pouch. It is then boiled and boiled and boiled some more. It’s pretty delicious, actually. A good hearty Icelandic food that also constituted a family tradition — families gathered to make their own slátur around the time of the autumn slaughter each year until recently — that you should indulge in from your cosy summer house.
The beautiful thing about all these traditional foods is that they can be found almost everywhere in the country… coincidentally, that’s exactly where Bungalo has a summerhouse waiting for you.
So, would you give any of these foods a try? We’ll feature some more mainstream dishes and highlight where in Iceland to get them in an upcoming post.