Read our guide to weird and wacky Icelandic treats. Some of these 9 dishes require a stomach of steel but you are going to want to try them when on your next trip to Reykjavik.
Heading to a new country means you get to try plenty of cool new tastes and Iceland is certainly no exception. Ever wondered what a boiled sheep head or rams testicles taste like? Probably not, but on your trip to Reykjavik you have the chance to try some pretty weird, wacky and dare we say, delicious dishes. Here are our top nine historical treats and more modern eats in Iceland:
1. Fermented Shark
© Image by Funky Tee
Kæstur hákari, or fermented shark, is made by treating shark meat and then hanging it out to dry for four to five months. It has a strong ammonia smell and is, let’s say, an acquired taste. If you are lucky enough to be served or stumble upon fermented shark then we recommend you give it a try. It is so hardcore you will most likely grow an instant Viking beard.
2. Head Cheese
© Image by Stefán Birgir Stefáns
Taking it down a notch, is head cheese, Sviðasulta. Definitely not cheese, this dish is a mix of all those yummy leftover bits in the head of a sheep that shouldn’t go to waste. Eyeballs, brains and all the good stuff is singed and boiled and made into a sort of loaf with a touch of gelatin to hold it together. Head cheese, yes please?
3. Dried Fish
Something you may have tried before, is Harðfiskur or dried fish. This is one of the traditional tastes of Iceland and Scandinavia and is part of Iceland’s Þorramatur. Þorramatur describes a number of traditional foods that are eaten during midwinter festivals.
4. Boiled Sheep’s Head
Although the presentation may be a little off putting, boiled sheep’s head, or Svið, is an old fashioned dish that never goes out of style. The tender meat in the cheeks is delicious and Icelanders favor the eye socket. Be sure to try it when in Reykjavik. You can even pick up a takeaway version at Flótt og Gott cafe at the bus station.
5. Liver sausage
Fairly common around Europe is liver sausage or Lifrarpylsa. Made from the liver and fat of sheep, these are tasty and packed with nutrients and protein. In Iceland, they add rice flour and oats to give them a bit more texture and omphf.
6. Ram Testicles
Now back to things you probably haven’t day dreamed about, unless you are Icelandic; sour ram’s testicles or Súrsaðir hrútspungar. These balls of meat (for lack of a better word) are packed into blocks, boiled and cured and then served as slices like bread. This is a very old dish that you can thank poor farmers for. Maybe you want to try it, maybe not, but it exists and there are people that love it.
7. Hot dog
© Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
Perhaps something a little closer to home, is the hot dog. In Iceland, this lamb staple is known as Pylsur, and is served with the lot. Mandatory toppings include sweet brown mustard, ketchup, raw and deep fried onions and a remoulade. It’s 100% tasty. If you are looking for the best then head to Bæjarins Betzu Pylsur and be prepared for a queue.
Another more modern treat is the fancy thick and protein rich Skyr yoghurt. It is a low fat, very healthy and super good. They have plenty of flavors and the recipe is said to have been around since when the Vikings came to Iceland. A favorite among fitness folk, this is also ‘Iceland’s secret to healthy living’. Grab a few at the store, pack them in your bag and never go hungry again. These small yoghurts will have you feeling full after half the container.
9. Icelandic pancakes
Last but not least are Pönnukökur. These crêpe like pancakes are served with jam, cream or sugar and are actually eaten to celebrate the sun. After a long, dark winter, the sun finally comes back and to greet it Icelanders celebrate Sólarkaffi or ‘sun coffee’ with a coffee and these pancakes. There are even parties in Reykjavik where a ticket will get you into a nightclub and include a pancake once the sun comes up. Fortunately, you don’t need to party all night for the goods. Head to Kaffivaginn in the capital and grab some delicious pönnukökur there.
Some of these nine Icelandic cuisines are sure to get your eyebrows raising but you never know until you try! For those seeking for something a little less traditional the Grillid Restaurant at Radisson Blu Saga Hotel, Reykjavik is serving up more modern treats you are bound to love.
Have you tried any of these fun foods?