From Cod to Kanelsnurr to Cloudberries
Let’s Taste Northern Norway
Ah Norway. The big brother of the Scandinavian siblings. To me, Norway is like the tall, athletic hulky older brother who braves Arctic temperatures and winters without light while running up mountains with kids on his back to all ski down; he believes that every problem can be solved simply by going outside.
In comparison, sweet tow-headed sister Sweden – she’s got flowers in her hair, shares her land but waves from a canoe as she paddles out to her archipelagos to forage for lingonberries in her cute clogs and colorful clothes.
Denmark is the moody little brother whose lands aren’t as large, but is still happy ’cause – you know, hygge – and he thinks his sibs aren’t quite as cool as he cruises by on a bike wearing skinny pants and fancy white trainers while sipping a locally roasted small batch coffee on the way to the latest craft beer release. (Ok, maybe that’s just the Copenhagen version.)
But Norway, he is rugged. It’s true. Norway is. Whether you think Norwegians are or not. The landscape here surges from the sea in stark sharp peaks and fierce fjords. And so much sea. In fact, Norway has more coastline than most countries in the world. Only 7 countries have more.¹ And 90% of all Norwegians live in places by the sea.² Think Vikings and hearty bearded fisherman. Or just people who eat fish. Lots and lots of fish.
Yep. You guessed it. Seafood is supreme in this coastal country. Now you sea it. Norway is actually the second largest exporter of seafood in the world.³ With their clean, clear waters and a sustainable population of migrating fish species, it is easy to see why. So naturally, the diet here is dominated by food plucked from the cold waters. Especially above the Arctic Circle. And you should try some. Here’s what and here’s why.
What You Should Taste When Traveling to Northern Norway
1 | SEAFOOD
You knew that was coming right? But what kind of seafood can you expect? Here is a list of the most common kinds of seafood you’ll find on menus and in shops above the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway:
TORSK = COD
LAKS = SALMON
MAKRELL = MACKEREL
ØRRET = TROUT
REKER= COLDWATER PRAWNS
SAITHE = POLLOCK
SEI = COALFISH
Of all of these fiske, Cod is king. When traveling to the nordlands, keep an eye out for Skrei on the menu. This is a special kind of Norwegian cod that migrates down from the Barents Sea and is considered a delicacy up here. It differs slightly from the coastal cod caught in the rest of the country. Come March the waters around the Lofoten Islands are full of these funky looking fish and this is when the bulk of each annual haul comes in to be processed.
Much of that caught cod is dried in a traditional way that dates back to before recorded history. Gutted and split, the fish is hung outside on racks to cure in the cold Arctic air without salt or smoke. When visiting Lofoten, you can’t miss the huge wooden racks all over the islands. Once dried, the cod is now called Tørrfisk, or Stockfish, and is perfectly preserved. Try some dried and you can conjure your inner Leif Eriksson knowing that stockfish like this sustained Vikings over their long sea journeys. When dry, it has a fibrous jerky texture and is an acceptable snack after your hike and is not as fishy as you might think.
But Vikings aside, stockfish is really much tastier once cooked in a dish. To do so, it first has to be reconstituted for a few days. We tried it and I’ll tell you it was truly tasty and surprisingly moist. We enjoyed this delicious dish at the Karoline Restaurant in Nusfjord for our anniversary dinner.
Where to Eat Some Tasty Arctic Seafood
8056 Saltstraumen, Bodø
TRY THIS: Order the Seibiff with onions and potatoes.
Karoline Restaurant at Nusfjord
Nusfjord, N-8380 Ramberg | Lofoten Norway
+47 76 09 30 20
TRY THIS: The Stockfish plate du jour and the Cloudberry Crème Brulée.
Sakrisøya, 8390 Reine | Lofoten Norway
+47 958 56 525
TRY THIS: The fish burger FOR SURE. It is fantastisk! Anita’s came highly recommended by many a local. I also loved the take away peel and eat prawns with house-made aioli. Garlicky and delicious. Great place to sit outside on the water and enjoy views of Mt. Olstind.
8373 Ballstad, Kræmmervikveien 36 | Lofoten Norway
+ 47 916 61 330
TRY THIS: The fiske suppe (fish soup) was one of my favorites. Kitschy inside dining in pub and lovely deck to eat outside when the weather is nice. Perfect after a hike up Ballstadheia.
2 | CHEESE
This might sound cheesy, but Norwegians have a thing for cheese. But the most Norwegian and iconic version known as Brunost is not exactly cheese. Per se. It’s whey. Wait a minute. What? Ok. Go with me. Whey is the byproduct created from actual cheese production. You’ve heard of curds and whey? Little Miss Muffet? Anyone? So the curds make the cheese. The whey – well it doesn’t. No way. Whey.
Unless you are in Norway. Then the whey is used to make one of the most beloved Norwegian foods. Brunost. They take the whey and boil it down to a carmelly brown color then form it into blocks of a smooth slightly sweet, a little nutty creamy “cheese.” Directly translated, the name literally means brown cheese. If you come to Norway, you shouldn’t leave without trying it. You slice it thin with a metal cheese slicer and eat it on sandwiches, crispbread and waffles. Yes. Waffles. This is the best way if you ask me.
If you want to learn more about cheese making and love listening to someone passionate about her product, check out Den Sorte Gryte north of Svolvær in the Lofoten Islands. We met Jorunn Husjord, owner, goat herder and master cheese maker while on a glamping safari with WildSeas. She showed us her big black pot (den sorte gryte) she uses to slowly get her brunost to that caramel colored perfection. You can taste and see the difference between her artisan cheese and the store bought variety.
Where to Eat Some Tasty Norwegian Cheese
Den Sorte Gryte
8412 Vestbygd, Lofoten Norway
+47 994 04 300
TRY THIS: Brunost, Camembert, and Cheesecake.
8093 Kjerringøy, Bodø Norway
+47 911 44 613
TRY THIS: Kvitost.
Little Miss Muffet she sat on a tuffet, eating her curds eating and whey.
Along came a spider who sat down beside her.
And frightened Miss Muffet away…”
3 | WAFFLES
Bring on the waffles! Not just for breakfast anymore. Actually up here, they never actually were. And don’t look for your maple syrup, you won’t find it anywhere near. In Norway, waffles are enjoyed more like an afternoon snack. In the UK, you’d take tea and some biscuits. In the States, we might do cookies and milk. In Denmark, you’d have cake. In Denmark, you always have cake. But in Norway. It’s waffles. Guests coming over? Mom has waffle batter in the fridge at the ready. (At least WildSeas captain Fred Erik Torhus‘ Norwegian mom does.)
And without maple syrup what do you put on your waffle up north? Cheese! Or brunost rather. Don’t knock it until you try it. It’s the perfect place for it perhaps. It melts and adds a rich creamy sweetness. But not too sweet. Just right. Or try yours with fresh preserves and a plop of tangy creme fraiche. Or maybe like me, you might do all three. I don’t know if that way is Norwegian or not, but I will admit, I enjoyed it. A lot.
You can get waffles just about everywhere. You’ll find them on the ferries and in cafes and pubs. We loved them warm and fresh at the Stampen Cafe in tiny Sund. Super cozy inside but if you are lucky to take your waffle out on the deck, then you should most definitely do so. While the brunost-y waffle melts in your mouth, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the bay and the mountains.
Where to Waffle way up North in Norway
40, Fv810, 8384 Sund i Lofoten, Norway
4 | KANELSNURR = CINNAMON SWIRLS
Scandinavians make darn good baked goods and the Norwegians are no exception. Beyond Norsk waffles, I can safely say that the kanelsnurr are the way to go. Cinnamony strips of sweet pastry are impossibly twisted into yummy balls of goodness. You can find them many places, but should really make your way to an old school Norwegian bakery and have one plucked straight from the pile fresh out of the oven. You won’t be disappointed. Lofoten locals all agree that the kanelsnurr from the old bakery in Å are the best.
Where to Find Your Own Cinnamon Swirls
The Bakeri at Å
Å i Lofoten in the Old House
880, E10, 8392 Sørvågen, Norway
5 | REINDEER
What? You want me to eat Rudolph? Or Prancer? Oh no, you sillies. These aren’t Santa’s sleigh drivers. Reindeer are a staple of the indigenous Sami culture’s diet and lifestyle. But whatever you do – don’t ask a Sami how many reindeer he has in his herd. I may or may not have learned this the hard way. Luckily this Sami charmingly explained to me that this is like asking someone how much money they have in the bank. Ok. Now I know. Now you know.
But however many reindeer a herder may have, the animals are still raised using ancient techniques and traditions. Can’t imagine eating these impressive animals? Have you ever eaten deer? Venison? Reindeer is similar, but the Sami say better. You can try it many ways, but we tested it in some tasty sausage.
6 | CLOUDBERRIES
Should you come across the opportunity to try the rare Arctic cloudberry (molter) you can’t pass it up. Known as highland gold up here, these little beauties are coveted by Norwegians come summer. They grow on a vine similar to strawberries and raspberries, but are sparse and hard to find. No one shares where they have their secret patch cache. If you find one, do try it, but make sure it is ripe and that you aren’t on private land.
Unripe berries are terribly tart. Like squeeze your face tart. Cloudberries start out whitish then ripen from red into an orangey color where they are quite soft and full of juice. The seeds are like those in blackberries, but quite a bit bigger. The taste is tangy and sweet-sour and juicy. They were a perfect balance cooked into our celebratory crème brulée. Have you tried them? Do you like them?
So while this list isn’t exhaustive, I hope it has whet your appetite to try some of the distinctively Norwegian tastes you will find above the Arctic Circle. Have you tried some of these? What did you like? What could you leave? What did I miss? What must I taste next time? I most definitely want to go back. I adore Norway. Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin