If you choose to come to Iceland, chances are it isn’t for the food; it’s to see hot springs and glaciers. Iceland’s cuisine isn’t known all over the world like that of France, Italy, or Thailand, but, with dishes like these, it should be. Here are five dishes you have to try in Reykjavík, in ascending order of shock factor:
It’s often said that there are more sheep in Iceland than people, so it comes as no surprise that lamb is one of the main proteins. There’s no better way to try it than in meat soup, where it is traditionally accompanied by fresh vegetables and simmered for hours. A great way to warm up on a cold Icelandic winter (or summer) day.
Don’t be alarmed by the name; this is just fish stew. It’s the Icelandic equivalent of meat and potatoes. (Well, they have that too, but you get the point.) It’s made from fresh-caught fish – often cod or haddock – potatoes, vegetables, and enough butter to make Paula Dean wince. The result is a stew hearty enough to be a full meal. Often served with rye bread.
It feels a little bit wrong to think of hot dogs as representative of any cuisine (except American of course), but the Icelandic version deserves it. They’re made with lamb, which is sure to add a delicious twist to your first bite. Try eina með öllu (translation: one with everything) to get the full assortment of toppings: ketchup, sweet mustard, crisp fried onion, raw onion, and remoulade.
Now this is getting weird. Perhaps the most infamous Icelandic dish, Hákarl is a type of putrescent (“fermented” is probably more appropriate) shark meat. It is traditionally prepared by burying a Greenland shark under a heavy weight to press out the fluids, which are poisonous. After a few months, the shark is cut into strips and hung to dry for a few more weeks prior to being served. It’s traditionally taken with a shot of brennivín, Iceland’s signature schnapps.
It’s a boiled sheep’s head. Well, half a sheep’s head. And the brain is removed. Oh yeah, they singe off all the hair first. Still not convinced? Svið comes from a time when no animal part could go to waste, and it has stuck around until today. Apparently many Icelanders consider the eyes to be a delicacy…
Warm Mediterranean sun on the back of his neck, the feeling of sand between his toes on an Italian beach, champagne on a tiled French portico… Wait—Eric’s going where? Iceland and Scandinavia? Shit. He may have to trade in sandals for hiking boots and survive on a diet of sheep’s head and “putrescent” shark meat (seriously, look it up), but at least he’ll get to take advantage of the free education, right? Oh, it’s summer? Well what about the free healthcare? Hopefully not? Okay, fine. He’ll just have to settle for climbing behind waterfalls, kayaking through fjords, hiking on glaciers, and fulfilling his mission of finding as much IKEA furniture as he possibly can.