What to eat in the Norwegian Fjords

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Torrfisk being dried on the shores of the Lofoten Islands, Norway

Norway is well known for its beautiful fjords, incredible landscapes and rich culture. When it comes to cuisine, people may know a lot less about the country than they first thought. With its traditional, warming dishes, Norwegian cuisine is really a display of the fresh ingredients and rich heritage the country has. From fårikål, the national dish, to svele pancakes, in this article we look at the foods you need to try on a Norwegian Fjords cruise

Tørrfisk

Tørrfisk, known in English as stockfish, is an unsalted fish that is dried out in the cold Norwegian air. This method is one of the world’s oldest preservation methods and gives the fish, usually dried cod, a long storage life and unique texture, perfect for cold winters. Stockfish is so popular, not just in Norway but around the world, that it is the country’s longest sustained export commodity.

The unique drying process is something that is potentially more interesting than the final product itself. The fish are hung from large, wooden structures on the shoreline, so keep an eye open when traversing the fjords and you may be lucky enough to see some drying!

A bowl of Farikal, Norways national dish

Fårikål

Fårikål is the national dish of Norway, so of course, is a must-try when anyone visits. The dish, a simple mutton stew made with cabbage and black peppercorns, is warming and traditional. Originating in Denmark, where it was cooked with goose or duck, Fårikål was transformed by Norway in the 1840s. The dish is so popular there is even Fårikål Feast Day.

We spoke to Helle, Norwegian food blogger at Helles Kitchen, who recommended Fårikål, she said: “If you come to Norway during the autumn, you should taste the national dish called Fårikål. The dish is made of lamb (with bones), cabbage and black pepper and it's cooked for several hours. It’s usually served with potatoes. It sure smells funky in every Norwegian home on National Fårikål Day, which is always on the last Thursday in September each year.”

Smalahove

One of the most unique dishes in Norway’s traditional food line-up is smalahove, this western-Norwegian food is actually sheep’s head. Norwegians eat this dish at Christmas time, where it can be served on the Sunday before Christmas, Christmas Eve or as Christmas dinner. Served with mashed potatoes, this traditional dish has a unique preparation where the skin and fleece of the head are torched off, the brain removed (in most instances) and the head is salted, smoked and dried.

Smalahove sheep’s head may be an unusual dish, however, for those looking to try a range of Norway’s food and drink we recommend giving it a try if you get the chance.

Norwegian brunost on crackers

Brunost

Brown cheese may not be a term you’ve heard before, but in Norway, it’s the only kind that really matters. Brunost, brown cheese, has a unique taste and will be something you either love or hate (but that many in Norway love). This tan coloured cheese is eaten throughout the day and has a caramel-like flavour, so is more likely to be served with sweet accompaniments.

Brunost isn’t the same in different parts of the country either, although you’ll find some more common brands and types there are many regional varieties of brown cheese and so, if you do find yourself in the sector of people that enjoy it, it’s worth trying a selection in different ports to notice the subtle differences.

Fiskesuppe

Soup is the perfect dish to warm you all the way through. And however simple, it always tastes exceptional. Norway brings its fantastic fresh seafood and soup together to make the amazing fiskesuppe.

We spoke to Nevada, cookbook author and blogger at North Wild Kitchen, who recommended fiskesuppe: “It’s difficult to recommend only one dish to try while in Norway because the dishes can vary across the regions and some you look forward to when in season. Yet, as visiting the fjords brings you close to the waters and the steep mountains, I would recommend starting your culinary journey with a bowl of warm fiskesuppe, ‘fish soup’.

“Sometimes rich and thick, while other times it has a velvety broth. Bergen is well-known for its variation - thick with fish and shrimp, speckled with carrot, celery, and onion and seasoned with a little vinegar and sugar. It’s a great meal to enjoy when the rain never seems to cease or as you watch the waves dance under the brilliance of the sun. No matter the weather or location, fiskesuppe is one meal that is sure to draw you toward the water’s edge.”

Norwegian potato dumplings

Potato Dumplings

If you are looking for something traditional, then we recommended searching out potato dumplings. This dish is a homemade favourite in Norway and is common in many households. Great for warming you after time exploring the cold fjords.

We spoke to Anders Husa, a food writer and photographer at Anders & Kaitlin. Anders visits the best restaurants in Scandinavia and around the world. We asked him for his professional recommendation: “When visiting Norway, you have to try our traditional dish of potato dumplings. They go by different names, depending on the region, but the most common ones are ‘komle,’ ‘klubb,’ and ‘raspeball.’

“Made from a mix of raw and cooked potatoes that are grated and mixed with salt and flour before they are cooked in a lamb broth, the potato dumplings are typically served with salty lamb, sausages, rutabaga mash, and bacon fat. In some regions, they also make it with a piece of bacon inside. My grandmother always used to make them for me when I was a kid, and back then, I could eat ten of them. Today, as an adult, I can hardly finish two of these rich and heavy dumplings.”

Svele

If you have a sweet tooth, then keep an eye out for svele. This Norwegian pancake is great as a quick snack and something a lot of Norwegians swear by for a sugar boost.

We spoke to the team at Life in Norway, they recommended svele: “It's a Norwegian take on an American pancake, it's got the soft, fluffy nature of those, but it's eaten more like a cake, as in afternoon with a coffee. They are hugely popular in the fjord region of Norway, specifically in the northern part in and around Ålesund, and actually quite hard to find them anywhere else. Typically, they are eaten as a snack and usually served sprinkled with sugar or with a slice of brown cheese and folded into a crescent shape. Jam and sour cream are also possible accompaniments.”

They then told us where you can find these delicious treats: “The most common place to find them may surprise you. They are hugely popular in the cafes of the ‘road replacement’ car ferry services operated by Fjord1 that cross many of the region's fjords.”

Vafler

It’s not just pancakes that can satisfy those with a sweet tooth as waffles are also very popular in Norway, where they are known as Vafler. These unique waffles are heart-shaped and are something that Norwegians eat worldwide to cure homesickness. In fact, the international Norwegian church of Sjømannskirken have served Vafler for over 150 years and sells over 30,000 waffles annually.

Just like with svele, Norwegian waffles can be served sweet with a range of toppings including jam, whipped cream, sour cream or brunost. When in Norway, you’ll likely be able to pick up Vafler at many cafes and coffee shops.

What to eat in the Norwegian Fjords

  • Tørrfisk
  • Fårikål
  • Smalahove
  • Brunost
  • Fiskesuppe
  • Potato Dumplings
  • Svele
  • Vafler

Now you know some of the best foods to try in Norway, you’ll be able to get a much more authentic experience when you visit on a Fjordland cruise.

For more tips, guides, and advice, make sure to visit our blog page.