What to Eat and Drink in Iceland
Posted on 06/09/2017
There are a few things that Iceland is really famous for. First and foremost are the Northern Lights, as this country’s vantage point for viewing the dazzling nocturnal displays is one of the finest on the planet.
Next on the list is Iceland’s impressive collection of landscape features, best exemplified by the gargantuan Gullfoss waterfall and the otherworldly geothermal pools that are scattered across the country. Iceland is also well known for its rich Norse history, as the island was settled by Vikings over a millennium ago.
One thing Iceland is not necessarily known for? Its food and drink.
But that may be starting to change.
Icelandic food and drinks are getting more and more attention as of late, with many of the dishes being as unique as you would expect from an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The following are a few of the best Icelandic food and drinks to try when you visit.
Lamb Stew (Kjötsúpa)
As natural food sources were very scarce in Iceland, the locals needed to make the most of what they had. Icelandic Lamb Stew is a fine example of this.
Sheep were brought to Iceland by Nordic settlers and soon became one of the only plentiful animals. A hearty combination of lamb with turnips, potatoes, and carrots, Kjötsúpa became Iceland’s national dish.
This stew is essentially the Icelandic chicken noodle soup, as it is seen as both a comforter and a warmer. (Each and every Icelander claims their mother’s version is the best.) Don’t worry If you don’t get invited over to a local’s house, though; you can find it on nearly every restaurant and cafe menu in the nation.
Icelandic Hot Dogs
No, this isn’t a joke; Iceland is absolutely obsessed with them. But they aren’t just any old hot dogs.
These are mostly made up of lamb with only minimal bits of beef and pork, and they come in a natural casing that provides a snap when bitten into. Icelandic hot dogs are also complemented by a myriad of toppings like crispy fried onions, raw onion, local sweet mustard, ketchup, and tangy remoulade.
While you can pick and choose your toppings, the local
way to order it is with all of the above—preferably from the world
famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur street stall in Reykjavik.
Iceland’s signature dairy product, skyr is a thick and creamy yogurt-like product that is high in protein but also fat-free. Technically a cheese, Skyr was brought to the island by the Vikings. But while the tradition died out in the rest of Scandinavia, it remained wildly popular here.
You will find the hearty and healthy skyr flavored with traditional berries of the region as well as plain or vanilla, and some of it still comes from the original skyr yogurt cultures.
Stockfish is to Iceland what beef jerky is to the United States, with this delicacy of air-dried fish being one of the country’s most popular snacks. To make stockfish, cod and other native fish are hung outside, exposing them to the cold winds that preserve the meat.
The dried fish is then feasted on by locals, often with slightly melted butter slathered on top.
Remember how there once was Prohibition in the United States? Well, they had it in Iceland too, except it was only repealed in 1989. (Yes, you read that right, 1989.)
Brewers didn’t waste any time jumping into the game after the repeal, and today Reykjavik is chock-full of cool craft beer bars. One of the most well-known craft beer brands you will find at the bars is Einstok—their Icelandic White Ale has picked up an international following.
PHOTO: Stockfish is to Iceland what beef jerky is to the United States, (photo via Flickr/Ulrich Latzenhofer)