Scandinavia is full of the weird and the wonderful. From its chilly climate to its old-fashioned fairy tales, and alien landscapes of geysers and volcanoes, the countries of Scandinavia are inevitably a point of curiosity for the inquisitive traveler.
But when it comes to Scandinavian food, there’s even more eccentricity to be embraced (or declined, depending on your threshold for squeamishness). If you’re a fan of the strange and bizarre in gastronomy, take a look at some of the must-try delicacies of Scandinavia…
- Hakarl (fermented shark)
Made from fermented Greenland Shark or Sleeper Shark, this national dish is definitely Iceland’s most pungent – either loved or hated by the diner. Icelandic hakarl connoisseurs eat it like a midday snack to go with a tankard of Einstök, just like Americans would snack on nuts at a bar, or Brits would pick at pork scratchings at a pub. Smelling strongly of ammonia and fish, hakarl is truly an acquired taste.
Often said to be the Swedish opponent to hakarl, Surströmming is a dish of rotten herrings. This deliciously disgusting snack is much more accessible than the Icelandic shark fin and can be found in tins in most supermarkets. Just the right amount of salt is used to prevent the fish from rotting completely; a fermentation process takes place over a few months which creates an acidic smelling fish. When opened the smell can be overwhelming, but the Swedes still swear by this delicious delicacy. Visit Five Euro Food for more of Sweden’s weird dishes.
If you can overcome the thoughts of Rudolph and all the rest of Santa’s adorable reindeer, Helsinki is Finland’s most popular city for getting taste of reindeer meet. A number of Scandinavian countries serve up reindeer steak in their finest restaurants – but salami is most popular in Finland.
Norway’s most famous seafood dish – more so for controversy than for taste – Lutefisk can be a harrowing thought if you’re a little on the squeamish side. This innocent white fish is steeped in the industrial chemical, lye. For those who know, lye is one of the most dangerous chemicals on the planet and there’s a complicated process involved in making the fish finally edible for humans. If you’re a daring diner, Lutefisk is a great dish to try on your next tour of the Northern Lights or the fjords in Norway. (Visit the Hurtigruten website for tour information)
5. Tyrkisk Peber
If all this bizarre food has your head spinning (or your stomach turning), make your final pit stop a poky little bar in Denmark where you can enjoy shots of Tyrkisk Peber. This Scandinavian drink is not made for the faint-hearted. A shot of vodka is boosted with a strong candy made from liquorice, ammonium chloride and pepper – certainly something to warm you up in the bitter cold weather.