Icelandic Food: Culinary Delights and Disasters. Part II


The last post was about the more gourmet food experiences you can have in Iceland (asides from the hotdog from the street stall).


Iceland is an island smack-bang in heart of the North Atlantic Ocean so where would Iclelandic food be without seafood! Seafood is a staple and one of the best dishes I had when I was in Iceland was on my first night.


When I arrived there was a small festival in full swing just around the corner at the old harbour: stalls with huge, steaming pots of seafood soup, beer on tap, live music….all for free.


And a big sign saying…‘Welcome to Iceland, Cherina!’



Festival near the old harbour in Reykjavík

Festival near the old harbour in Reykjavík



Oh alright, there was no sign! But I’m still not convinced the festival wasn’t being held in honour of my arrival…


It was pretty chilly out so beer and soup was exactly what I needed.

The fish soup was divine! Hot, totally not raw, and delicious…


Which brings me to dried fish and rotten shark meat, which is the complete opposite.  They look harmless, I admit. And many, many people love it.


Fermented (a fancy word for ‘rotten’) shark meat, or Hárkal, has been likened to a flavour similar to the strongest cheese you can imagine soaked in fish juice or ammonia.


I can’t attest to this myself but, mmm…sounds scrumptious!



Delicious seafood soup

Icelandic food: Delicious seafood soup



My advice: If you are so inclined, absolutely give it a try…but sample it in a quiet corner with a discreet bin handy. No need to offend anyone with a sudden uncontrollable onset of gag reflex.


(Yes, this happened to me with the dried fish. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to the Hárkal.)


Hárkal is often followed by a chaser of Brennivín, a uniquely Icelandic alcoholic drink. Brennivín is a type of schnapps made from fermented potatoes and flavoured with caraway seeds, also referred to as Svarti Dauði: The Black Death.


The name comes from the black label on the bottle, not the potency of the drink….or so they say.




Brennivín, aka: The Black Death



Are you game? I was. It’s….well, rather strong. And a little like vodka. Really strong vodka. Let’s leave it at that.

The Icelandic version of fish and chips was much more palatable that the dried fish.


I went to the famous Icelandic Fish and Chips restaurant on Tryggvagotu near the old harbour and tried their ‘special’ of Redfish  with spiced potatoes and skyronaise.



Icelandic Fish and Chips

Icelandic Food: Fish and Chips



Apart from the more undercooked varieties, I thought the Icelandic food I tried was great and I am looking forward to sampling even more next time I am there.


On my last day in Iceland a storm came out of nowhere and a furious wind carried me back down to the old harbour for a final bowl of seafood soup at Höfnin Restaurant before I flew back to the UK.


The final taste of Icelandic food that I will encounter for a while….but it definitely won’t be the last.



Did you miss Part One of Icelandic Food: Culinary Delights and Disasters?


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Comments (6)
  • Avatar

    Meg Jul 16 2012 - 4:45 pm Reply

    haha I love these Iceland food stories. My favorite episode of Anthony Bourdain’s was when he ate fermented shark meat. His reaction was also an uncontrollable onset of gag reflex…. But that seafood soup does look amazing!
    Meg recently posted..Week 2 of Brunch In Berlin – Foodgasmic Tales From The RoadMy Profile

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      Quiet Wanderings Jul 16 2012 - 9:08 pm Reply

      Ah, Anthony and I are kindred spirits in that sense then, Meg 😉 Hats off to the brave souls who can actually ingest it – blah.

      The seafood soup gets a massive tick though. It certainly took the edge off that icy chill in the air.

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    Esther Jul 16 2012 - 5:15 pm Reply

    I just wonder how they got into that habit of cooking rotten food? Soaking in fish juice or ammonia … terrible. Maybe they used to torture unwelcome outsiders with that dish?

    Are you sure that sign was not there written in Icelandic 😉
    Esther recently posted..From Pisa with LoveMy Profile

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      Quiet Wanderings Jul 16 2012 - 9:12 pm Reply

      You know what, Esther…I think you may be right! Of course it was written in Icelandic, it’s no wonder I didn’t see it 😉

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    Chrystal McKay Jul 16 2012 - 10:28 pm Reply

    I am a HUGE fan of any and ALL seafood based cuisines! Although – I don’t know if I would try the fermented shark meat- not because its fermented – but because its shark – and we need to protect them. But the taste would also keep me away. But those Fish&Chips would be amazing and that soup looks so scrumptious!!

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    Candace Jul 16 2012 - 10:58 pm Reply

    What a fun post, Cherina! I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of seafood, but your photos are so vibrant and really capture the dishes well. Thanks for sharing :)
    Candace recently posted..conversations with micaela, part 2: what do you do when you travel?My Profile

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