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Icelandic Cuisine – Top 5 dishes to try

Iceland is located between North Atlantic and Artic Oceans. Volcanically active Iceland is famous for stunning landscapes of sand and lava fields, glaciers, mountains and rivers. The settlement of Iceland started with Norse and Gaelic settlers back in AD 874. Iceland was part of the Norwegian and Danish monarchies from 1262 to 1918. Icelandic culture is deeply rooted in ancient heritage such as poetry, medieval sagas, and traditional Icelandic cuisine. Iceland is a remote country with population a bit over 300 000 people, therefore it’s not easy to import produce. Icelanders use the land and sea and grow their own vegetables. But most importantly they keep cooking traditions that were founded by their ancestors thousands of years ago.

Important parts of Icelandic cuisine are dairy, lamb, fish, and seafood due to oceans surrounding Iceland. Protected by environmental regulations, those pure waters have a wide variety of delicious seafood. Popular foods in Iceland include skyr (local yogurt), fermented shark, hot dogs, and smoked lamb. Iceland’s traditional buffet called Þorramatur offers authentic selection of traditionally cured meat, fresh and dried fish products and sweet rye bread. All of this could be washed down with a spirit called brennivín a unique Icelandic akvavit. Living in the isolated island, Icelanders managed to preserved traditional methods of cooking such as pickling, fermenting, drying and smoking.

Lamb is widely used in many traditional preparations and is considered a national dish. Icelanders are proud of the quality of the lamb as its lean, mild, and fine-grained meat due to organic diet of the sheep. Sheep graze freely in the mountains and they get a lot of exposure to sunshine in the summer, and because of that they eat more than they would elsewhere and grow to a much higher weight. Many chefs around the world praise Icelandic lamb for its high quality.

Another high quality produce is the local fish and seafood. Fisherman use traditional hook-and-line methods to catch herring, cod and haddock. One of the most popular fish in Iceland is Arctic char, it has a high content of omega 3s and has a delicate and sweet flavor. Iceland banned the fishing of salmon in its waters; therefore these type of fish comes from Iceland’s rivers.

Dairy is an important part of Icelanders’ diet. Skyr is the national pride and joy. This special cheese was created more than a thousand years ago by farmers who were trying to preserve meat for long winters. Until this day, farmers use the same method, skim milk is stored in wooden barrels for 8 weeks. Skyr is soft, thick and tangy cheese that could be compared to mozzarella. Make sure you try local delicacies!

Top 5 Icelandic dishes to try:

  1. Harðfiskur (Dried fish). This is a very healthy dish, it contacins lots of protein and no fat. Icelanders eat it as a snack.
  2. Puffin. This creation is made from dark bird meat and is considered a delicacy.
  3. Hákarl (Fermented shark). This traditional snack has a distinct smell and taste.
  4. Skyr. This is a diary product, low in fat and high in protein, looks like a yogurt in texture. It comes in various flavours and could be served as a meal.
  5. Pylsa. Local hot dog comes with a bun, sausage, onions and remoulade sauce.

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This article was written on 20 Mar 2014.

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