Northern Norwegian food is extremely simple. Why would you want to overwhelm all those delicious ingredients with powerful spices and sauces when you are enjoying the freshest possible produce of the ocean, rivers and mountains?
With winter cod in February, boiled pollock on the beach in the summer, king crab you’ve caught yourself, traditional Norwegian flatbread on the ferry and reindeer meat in a Sami lavvu tent, your taste buds will be kept busy when you visit Northern Norway.
The fjords and ocean off Norway are the world’s richest, as this is where the cold and warm ocean currents meet. The winter cod comes into coastal waters during the period after Christmas, and this is the season for “skreimølje”, a gastronomic orgy of fresh cod, liver and roe – typically served with cod cheeks and tongues – which leaves the diner blissfully drowsy and content. Pollock is the summer fish, often eaten au naturel with crispbread. At Christmas, many Norwegians eat halibut, a firm and tasty fish.
Dried cod is Norway’s oldest export and is enjoyed in the form of “lutefisk” (treated with lye and boiled) just before Christmas. The outside walls of many homes in Northern Norway are strewn with cod being home-dried before it is taken down (semi-dried) as “boknafisk”, boiled and served with bacon bits. Unbled pollock is matured in a barrel for up to a year in order to make a dish known as “gammelsei” (“Old Pollock”) .
“Bait” is the term old fishermen use with a certain disdain about shrimp, scallops, horse mussel, blue mussel and sea urchin that is brought ashore. The notion of eating such things is rather new in Northern Norway, as the locals have always been so spoiled with regards to fresh fish nowadays, however, fresh and juicy shellfish are being served in restaurants along the entire coast of Norway, and their meat is firmest in the winter.
The king crab actually originates from the Pacific Ocean, but it was released into the Barents Sea by the Russians in the 1960s. These monster crustaceans are now crawling westward along the Finnmark coast, and are already being caught off Troms County. The most extensive fishing for them, however, is east of the North Cape. On a king crab safari in Finnmark, the crab is served with mayonnaise and bread along with some white wine, but the gourmet restaurants serve it with delicious sauces and spices.
Reindeer is an old tradition
At a Sami wedding with a thousand guests, they serve “bidos” – reindeer stew – with potatoes and carrots. “Finnebiff”, which consists of thin slices of reindeer meat in a cream sauce flavoured with juniper, is another favourite. Dried reindeer heart is extremely sought after and hard to procure. If you are in a Sami home, it is common for a dried leg of reindeer to be passed around, and then one generally cuts a piece of dried meat to have with coffee.