Saturday, March 19, 2011

Iceland's Curious & Creative Cuisine

I always approach travel with a sense of curiosity and that applies to the local food. When I visit Iceland, one of my very favorite countries for its pristine landscapes, sense of adventure around almost every corner, wealth of geologic variety, and one of the most charming capital cities around, I’m always searching for authentic food. There’s no lack of it in Iceland, which has plenty in the way of culinary delicacies at upscale restaurants such as the Fish Market that serves blueberry cured filet of lamb or the Fish Company, which offers an international menu that includes blackened langoustines with truggle gnocchi.

But then there are those odd assortment of creature body parts that make up traditional Icelandic cuisine. Cod cheeks -- you probably didn’t know codish have cheeks? -- pickled ram's balls and the hardly tasty, fermented shark meat. Yes, I’ve eaten all of these items, some inadvertently. I recently wrote about Iceland’s curious cuisine for AAA’s Home & Away magazine (make sure you input this zip code, 73106, to access the article) where you’ll find out which restaurant has boiled sheep head on the menu, and why I ended up accidentally consuming fermented shark meat -- though I vowed never to eat it.

20 comments:

Melanie Haiken said...

When we were in college, my boyfriend's roommate was from Iceland and his family would send him all sorts of "delicacies;" the one I remember best was some kind of whale, shark or dolphin blubber. I remember not wanting to hurt his feelings but not wanting to eat it after one bite! Truly the most disgusting thing I've ever eaten, and I've eaten a lot of weird stuff. Kudos to you for your adventurous palate!

JTravel said...

Hi Melanie, I've eaten whale in Norway and liked it just fine. But the fermented shark was probably the worst thing I've ever eaten. Funny how some people find it tasty, just the way you would feel about blue cheese -- you either love it or you don't.

NoPotCooking said...

I saw someone (Andrew Zimmern? Anthony Bourdain?) eat that fermented shark on tv and boy it did not look appetizing! My grandmother went to Iceland but I doubt she tried it.

Alexandra said...

My husband travels to Sweden every year and has the option of stopping in Iceland, which I think I will suggest when I accompany him in the future. I'm intrigued by the use of blueberry but do not think I would go for shark either.

Melanie @ Frugal Kiwi said...

A lot of interesting food items! Probably a lot more people have eaten shark than realize it. It is often served in New Zealand as the default fish in fish and chip shops or as "lemon fish".

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

Wow, Melanie, I didn't know that about shark being the "fish" in fish & chips. Is that common Kiwi knowledge?

Jane Boursaw said...

All I can say is, I'm so glad I grew up in Michigan rather than Iceland! I'll take our cherries and apples over sheep's head and ram's balls any day.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

You had me at blueberry + lamb.

Sheryl K said...

Some of these foods make me absolutely cringe! It's a wonder that you tried some - and lived to tell the tale. I HAVE had fish cheeks in a restaurant in Florida, and although the name gave me pause, they were surprisingly good.

Alisa Bowman said...

I've always wanted to go to Iceland. I love eating my way through countries, especially when the cuisine is so different.

JTravel said...

Hi NoPotCooking, If there had been a video of me while I chewed the shark, it would've have been a pretty sight.

JTravel said...

Hi Alexandra, Yes, definitely try to stop in Reykjavik. They like to use lots of berries, including cloudberries.

JTravel said...

Hi Melanie, Yes, but the shark in fish & chips would't be fermented. And that makes all the difference.

JTravel said...

Hi Jane, I love cherries and apples, especially in pies.

JTravel said...

Hi Roxanne, Iceland has some amazing lamb dishes, for sure.

JTravel said...

Hi Sheryl, The first time I saw fish cheeks on a menu in Norway I didn't know what to make of it because I never knew fish had cheeks. But I found the dish quite tasty.

JTravel said...

Hi Alisa, I just returned from Finland and found some very interesting cuisine that I'll be posting later.

MyKidsEatSquid said...

Fermented shark--crazy cuisine! We were in Chinatown in Washington DC recently and the special of the week was stir-fried jellyfish heads. I guess you don't have to go far to try something new.

JTravel said...

Hi MyKidsEatSquid, Wow, I'd love to try stir-fried jellyfish heads. I'm sure I can find it in NYC's Chinatown.

wall art said...

MyKidsDontEatSquid!

Any tips for what I can do to convince them?