Icelandic Food: Culinary Delights and Disasters. Part I

 

After night of culture and class at Reykjavík’s brand spanking new Harpa Concert Hall listening to the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, I thought it only fitting that I conclude the evening with a snack from the most popular (I have very reliable sources) place to eat in the country

The Bæjarins beztu pylsur hot dog stand.

 

What better way to bring an otherwise highbrow evening back down to earth.

 

 

 

Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavík.

Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavík.

 

Of the huge selection of Icelandic food, a hot dog would not generally be my first choice, but then neither would puffin. Or raw reindeer meat. Or dried fish. *quietly gagging*

 

And I have tried my hand/stomach at all of those because, well…when in Iceland

 

I have however, drawn the line at whale meat. And foal. (Yes, as in baby horse.)

 

Both of which are Icelandic delicacies that I am certain my stomach would handle just fine, probably even enjoy. Minke whale in particular is supposed to be delightful!

 

It’s my mind that has the problem. I can feel it contorting now at the very thought.

 

 

Hot dog stand

Icelandic Food: Bæjarins beztu pylsur hot dog stand.

 

 

Give it time though and I may just come around. Because, as you know, Iceland has won me over in a serious way and I will be back here again before too long. And Icelandic food has proven to be wonderful so I will try for a different mindset for next time.

 

As you may have gathered, a true Icelandic culinary experience is not for the faint of heart. Or herbivores. But I do highly recommend it!

 

Okay, so…

 

Puffins are not only the cutest birds in history but good lord, they are delicious!

(Just close your eyes and think of England. Definitely don’t think about how cute they are – you’ll be fine, I promise!)

 

Puffin tastes a little like chicken: sort of. Actually not at all.

 

It is usually served smoked which helps to reduce the fishy taste of the meat, and the dish I tried was also cured in Guinness.

 

I guess eating puffins is a little controversial and I spent about a lot of time (3 seconds) feeling guilty about the fact that I thought puffin was completely yum!

 

As part of my gourmet meal at the restaurant at Hótel Rangá in South Iceland, I was served a tasting plate of:

 

smoked Lundi (puffin);

wild Icelandic salmon; and

Hreindýr carpaccio (thinly sliced raw reindeer meat) with truffle oil.

 

 

Icelandic lamb

Icelandic lamb. Photo: Flickr creative commons

 

 

It was a pretty close call, but the puffin won my vote in the end.

 

But then came the lamb.

 

Icelandic lamb is like none you’ve ever tasted. It is incredibly lean and literally melts in your mouth. Why does it taste so darn good?

 

Iceland has been one of the leaders of sustainability for some time. The pristine environment and geographical isolation of Iceland means there is no need to use any harmful chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics or hormones on their livestock.

 

They are definitely doing something very right because the lamb I had was easily the best I’ve ever eaten. And as if it couldn’t be any better…the dish I had was served with lobster tail. Oh yeah.

 

 

Reykjavik

Icelandic Food: Reykjavik

 

 

So that’s the gourmet side of things, but wait…there is more!

 

Iceland is an island so it is a given that there is an abundance of seafood.  No post about Icelandic food would be complete without a good dose of seafood.

 

In the next post I will tell you about some of my good, bad and ugly experiences with a few typical seafood ‘delights’ in Iceland.

 

Think dried fish and rotten shark meat…ugh.

 

 

to be continued

 

 

If you are interested in reading Part Two follow this link: Icelandic Food: Culinary Delights and Disasters Part II

 

My culinary experience was made possible thanks to Hótel Rangá in South Iceland. All opinions and suggestions are of course, my own.

 

 

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Comments (14)
  • Avatar

    Natasha von Geldern Jul 10 2012 - 9:51 am Reply

    I made myself try the lightly cured puffin at Hotel Ranga, mainly out of politeness. They assured me it was a regular and sustainable part of the Icelandic diet. Actually it tasted great. But rotten shark mean?!
    Natasha von Geldern recently posted..Fiji Isles: Smiles of Savu SavuMy Profile

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      Quiet Wanderings Jul 10 2012 - 11:01 pm Reply

      Oh god, I know. I still gag at the very thought. I have a pretty strong stomach…for anything that doesn’t smell bad – but rotten ‘anything’ sets me over the edge. Ugh.
      Puffin is awesome though :) So glad you agree.

  • Avatar

    Andrea Jul 13 2012 - 7:40 pm Reply

    Awww – I had no idea that’s what a puffin looks like. I could never eat one!
    Andrea recently posted..Travel Memories: Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island, Victoria, AustraliaMy Profile

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    Raymond @ Man On The Lam Jul 15 2012 - 11:47 pm Reply

    We have puffins in Newfoundland as well, but I’m still absolutely positively DYING to get to Iceland. :)
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..44 Dioramas of Dead GophersMy Profile

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      Quiet Wanderings Jul 16 2012 - 9:01 pm Reply

      You guys seriously have ALL the cool stuff in Canada!! If you are interested in Iceland, bump it up the list…you won’t be disappointed.

      Oh, and do try the puffin 😉

  • Avatar

    Stephanie - The Travel Chica Jul 16 2012 - 7:45 pm Reply

    Wow! I had no idea they eat stuff like this in Iceland. Those puffers are so adorable, but I don’t think I would hesitate to eat one if it’s that tasty.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Ambrosia: The Tarijeño Breakfast of ChampionsMy Profile

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      Quiet Wanderings Jul 16 2012 - 9:14 pm Reply

      I know, it’s fascinating, right? There are loads of foods I didn’t even get to try too… Next time :)

  • Avatar

    A Montrealer Abroad Jul 16 2012 - 11:10 pm Reply

    I find it more and more difficult to eat meat as time goes on. Not beef and salmon because I feel there’s ample supply of it. But lamb, veal and other cute animals, for some reason, make me really uncomfortable. I KNOW it’s ridiculous and it’s all in my mind but whenever I see a piece of lamb, no matter how delicious it looks, I see his little face in my head begging me not to eat him. I think it would be the same for puffins!
    A Montrealer Abroad recently posted..#FriFotos: European SummersMy Profile

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      Quiet Wanderings Jul 16 2012 - 11:44 pm Reply

      Probably hard to believe considering what this post is about, but I actually used to feel the same way about eating meat. I couldn’t bear the thought of it, and I was a vegetarian for years.

      Strangely, THAT doesn’t bother me in that same way any more – it’s more the issues surrounding the humane treatment of the animals.

      There was a lot of controversy here in Australia regarding live cattle exports to Indonesia after ABC aired a documentary called ‘A Bloody Business’ last year. It is horrific. I only advise watching the footage if you have a really strong stomach – it’s very disturbing. But also, very real. I stopped eating beef for a while after that. I still don’t eat a lot of meat but when I do, I try to buy free-range/organic/ethical brands wherever possible.

  • Avatar

    Chasing the Donkey Jul 24 2012 - 8:01 pm Reply

    You’re right, I don’t think you can think about how darn cute they are. Still I’d try it, given the chance.
    Chasing the Donkey recently posted..All things Croatian Part 1My Profile

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    Sherry Aug 1 2012 - 10:52 pm Reply

    Well, I’ll try the Icelandic salmon. And were those lobster tails in your photo? I can eat those, too. To be honest, I’m actually curious to see what puffin taste like ever since I saw them being caught and eaten on television. Everyone thought they were delicious.

    • Avatar

      Quiet Wanderings Aug 7 2012 - 9:29 pm Reply

      They were surprisingly delicious, Sherry – completely unexpected. The lamb I had was served with lobster tails…just, yum!

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