Icelandic Dry Fish - A Traditional Delicacy
Updated: Aug 9
Travelling to new countries opens a whole new world to you. Seeing cities you have never seen, the magnificent landscapes, meeting new people and discovering their culture is a great experience. Iceland is unlike any other country. It is not only about the ancient churches and museums. This is mainly about its fauna and flora. There is another aspect in travelling which for some maybe even be the favourite one. Experiencing the traditional cuisine of the new country. Through the food you can learn a lot about the country’s tradition and history. And this is the case with Iceland.
When you try different flavors, local products and learn about earlier unknown cooking methods, you can learn about the history of the whole country. This can easily be seen in Icelandic cuisine. The Nordic and Danish natives had to combine their culture with products which came from the severe climate, creating the traditional Icelandic food.
The history of our country is based on struggle for survival basically. A remote island in the middle of the northern Atlantic Ocean, close to the Arctic circle, was not very fertile to be honest. Do not forget though that Vikings were the toughest people ever. They managed to find a way to transform it into healthy, nutritious and tasty food.
The staple product of Icelandic cuisine is of course fish. The Icelandic fishing tradition was a significant part of life of the Vikings which Icelanders inherited. The cold waters of the North Atlantic Ocean are a perfect source for this food. The main types of fish that can be found here are cod and haddock. Sharks and whales can also be frequently found here.
Fish Jerky – An Icelandic food you must try
Harðfiskur is quite a difficult word to say right? You can than easily say - dried fish. Most often it is cod and it is one of the most popular Icelandic dried fish snacks. The situation here is quite similar to our famous hot dog. You can easily buy them in each grocery stores in Iceland even at gas stations. You should know that dried fish is extremely filling, healthy and also very tasty - for most of people. The taste reminds a bit of fish chips but more nutritious.
What is the story behind this snack? As you know already Icelandic climate is quite rough and the land was not conductive to the cultivation of legumes. So in order to survive a long, harsh winter, fish was salted, dried and then smoked. Until the XIX Century, cereals and grain were imported from Denmark and as you can imagine it was not the cheapest item. Bread was not available either and it was a kind of a luxury. This means that instead of the usual slice of bread Icelanders had to find another product. And here we come to Harðfiskur. In the XV century, dried fish was even used as currency in Iceland.
Icelandic dried fish with butter - Yummy!
Harðfiskur is a perfect snack for long hiking and trekking days in Iceland. You just get a bag of dried fish and put in your backpack for when you get hungry on the trail. The texture of the fish is very dry and can make some difficulties for you to eat it. You need chew every bite carefully and thoroughly before swallowing.
Icelanders eat tonnes of dried fish jerky every year. They even found a way to make it even better and tastier to eat. You just need to put a bit of a butter on the top. It makes it softer and gives it better taste.
So when you buying your Icelandic dried fish for your road trip around Iceland, remember to get a pack of butter as well. It is said that the first try is always the most important. It’s either going to be a love or hate relationship, so you better try it with butter directly.
Icelandic dried fish snack
Icelandic dried fish snacks are so popular in Iceland that even they even replace pop corn and the typical potato crisps. Bitafiskur is another kind of the dried fish snack which is worth mentioning here. It is quite similar to Harðfiskur. The difference is that in Bitafiskur’s pack there are ready-to-eat portions and small bites unlike in Harðfiskur which is made in long, thin strips. Bitafiskur is extremely healthy so I do recommend it especially for the people who really like to have some snack watching the movie or when having a beer but still wish to keep fit. It mostly consists of protein: 90%. It has no carbohydrates. It comes from clear Icelandic waters and is 100 better from any chips, sweets or salty peanuts.