What Icelanders Actually Eat
Today’s Icelandic restaurants have the menus to reassure that certain Viking-like food offerings remain unchanged in the ever-evolving travel destination. Alongside, the food scene is quite playful and almost avant-garde, infusing newfound flavors with the older traditions. There are a few eyebrow raisers that are in demand at restaurants in Iceland that do not reflect the dishes being served on a daily basis in local homes.
The puffin is an iconic bird in Iceland and it can seem odd to spot them on menus. Walking down Laugavegur, the main strip in Reykjavik, one cannot avoid these adorable tuxedo-dressed little creatures both as souvenirs and as a delicacy in restaurants.
Whale hunting is allowed of fin whale and minke which are both sold to restaurants and grocery stores. Regardless of its controversy, the whale meat served in Iceland is mainly targeted for international visitors.
Some of the absurd Viking food like fermented shark, smoked sheep’s head, sheep head jelly and ram’s testicles still show up in today’s culture, but are mainly offered during Þorrablót which is a midwinter festival celebrating old traditions in food and lyrics.
It’s easy to buy the urban myth of Icelanders eating whale burgers, puffins, and highly-odored shark as everyday meals, but what do they actually eat on a daily basis?
We pride ourselves on owning some of the most pristine fish in the world and it shows up both in our homes and restaurants. Going to the fishmonger a few times a week is the Icelandic norm, both for simple cod or haddock and for pre-seasoned and ready to be heated dishes.
The Icelandic lamb is a national cuisine treasure. It lives on grass, berries, arctic herbs and is prepared in numerous ways from grilled in the ground in the summertime, roasted at home, or smoked.
Root vegetables, kale, and cabbage were the few common Icelandic grown vegetables for decades. Today, market fresh produce is bountiful in the same way as is geothermal energy, growing fruit and vegetables in greenhouses. Locally sourced and organically grown produce is easily accessed in grocery and specialty stores.
We’re offering a world class cuisine of pure and fresh Nordic ingredients via tradition and re-creation. Several of these dishes at restaurants are popular amongst the locals, but it’s not a common thing in Icelandic homes today to serve horse meat, puffin, fermented shark or a whale steak.
When here, it might feel expected to indulge in highly exotic dishes exploring new and unknown flavors. If it feels like being placed in an unparalleled universe between the earth and the skies, it might just as well be second nature to pair that feeling with mythical cuisine. As for lighter casual meals, do as the locals do and snack on dry fish with butter, skyr, or flatbread with smoked lamb.