Must-try Icelandic food and drink
Tuesday, 19 October 2021
When it comes to sampling the local food in another country, it doesn’t get more interesting than Iceland. This distinctive cuisine might seem unusual compared to what you are used to, however, that doesn’t mean you won’t fall for its warming stews, flavoursome seafood delicacies and hearty meat dishes.
So, whether Iceland is a stop-off on your Canadian cruise or the land of ice and fire is somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, read on to find out more about the authentic Icelandic food and drink to enjoy whilst in this amazing country.
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You can’t get a much more traditional Icelandic food than lamb. A staple of local cuisine and a part of many Iceland dishes, making sure you try lamb whilst in Iceland is essential. Raised wild around the countryside (you’ll be sure to see them if your get out of the towns when visiting Iceland), Iceland lamb is distinctive due to the herbs the sheep graze on and because of this is used a lot around the country. One such dish is Kjötsúpa, a simple a hearty meat soup made from lamb and vegetables, perfect to warm you up on a cold day.
For something a bit more obscure, you could try the Iceland dish of svið. Originating from a time where every part of the animal needed to be used, svið, sheep’s head, isn’t for everyone but is still quite popular in the modern-day. Usually served simply with mashed potato and swede, svið may seem unusual but actually, many Scandinavian countries have equivalents such as smalahove in Norway.
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When most people think of the Iceland food and drink scene, hot dogs aren’t something that comes to mind, however, it’s hard to get too far here without crossing them! This savoury snack is the perfect way to get a quick bite if you are in a hurry and are delicious. The Icelandic hot dog is unique in that it’s predominantly made from lamb and usually organic, free-range lamb at that. Served with raw white onion, crispy fried onion, ketchup, brown mustard and remoulade (which is a seasoned mayonnaise) these are a must-try.
If you’re feeling brave during your visit to Iceland, you won’t want to pass up an opportunity to try the country’s most infamous dish: Hákarl, or fermented shark meat. Usually sold diced and ready to eat, Hákarl can be bought in grocery stores and found in most eateries.
Not for the faint-hearted, Hákarl was a staple of Iceland’s Viking ancestors, eating it only as a means to survive. As shark is poisonous, fermenting the meat meant it could be safely consumed, and today, this age-old delicacy has become a must-try for daring visitors.
You can’t talk about the food in Iceland without mentioning the unique and potentially controversial meats you’re likely to find. Due to some of the more unique fauna that lives on and around the island, there are some meats here that you may see on menus that you don’t expect. For those who are always looking to try something new when it comes to food, this can be very exciting but for some, it can seem unusual.
Some of the unique meats you can try in Iceland:
- Horse – A meat that is quite controversial in the UK and other western countries, Iceland does serve up horse meat on occasion. It’s the least eaten meat in Iceland, and the majority that is produced is actually exported to Japan.
- Reindeer – Known locally as Hreindýr, reindeer is quite commonly eaten in Iceland and can even be a part of a traditional Christmas meal. You’re likely to find this meat used in burgers and meatballs when in a restaurant.
- Puffin – Puffins are aplenty in Iceland and in the past, coastal communities turned to this bird for sustenance during food shortages. Now, although puffin hunting is restricted and limited you might still see this on a menu, but don’t worry about numbers declining as it’s a highlight monitored practice.
- Whale – Off the coast of Iceland, it’s quite common to see whales and, back in the 12th-century, Iceland started whaling, predominantly catching fin and minke whales. In modern-day Iceland, only a small number of whales are hunted (in 2017, only 17 were caught) but whale meat may still be something you come across whilst dining in Iceland.
It’s worth noting that, today many of these meats are most likely to be consumed by travellers rather than locals and so, although you may see them on menus in restaurants, they aren’t a day-to-day part of local cuisine.
Now something a little less pungent and more common, in fact, you’ve probably seen this on the supermarket shelves at home! Skyr is a staple of Icelandic cuisine and goes back so far that if you visit the National Museum of Iceland, you’ll see three jars of skyr dating back thousands of years.
Although it looks and tastes like yoghurt (and tends to be referred to as yoghurt), it’s actually a type of cheese that was brought by the Vikings from Scandinavia. This distinct dairy product can be served as a dish on its own (usually topped with berries and sweet sauces) or as an accompaniment to other dishes.
We know what you are thinking, ice cream, in Iceland, but hear us out. When in Reykjavic, you’ll be shocked by not only how many ice cream shops there are, but how many flavours of ice cream and types of ice cream are on offer! Although it’s a cold country, whilst here on an Icelandic cruise you have to make sure to grab a cone.
It’s not just the food you need to try when in Iceland but the drink as well. Likened to vodka or an unsweetened schnapps, Brennivín is a popular spirit in Iceland and worth a try if you want to drink like the locals. Meaning ‘burning wine’, we have to warn you, this may not go down easy – they call it the black death in Iceland for a reason!
Must-try food and drink in Iceland
- Hot Dogs
- Unique Meats
- Ice Cream
Now you have an idea of the dishes that are a traditional part of Icelandic cuisine to try when you are visiting restaurants in Reykjavik and around the rest of the country. Whether you want to try something new and unique or are happier with a simple ice cream cone, Iceland has you covered.
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