Wild and Wonderful Food You’ll Find on an Iceland Cruise

Wild and wonderful food you’ll find on an Iceland cruise

The idea of traditional Icelandic food might conjure up thoughts of dishes fit for only the most fearless of foodies. The likes of fermented shark and jellied sheep’s head are frequently mentioned. Whilst the stronger stomached can certainly feast on these local delicacies if they so desire, Iceland is also home to more palatable fare. Fresh, farm-to-table ingredients are the order of the day in the contemporary Icelandic culinary scene. With seafood plucked from the icy Atlantic, innovative dairy products and ingenious preservation techniques cultivated over centuries of tradition, the food scene here is interesting and appetising.

History of food in Iceland

Severely lacking options, the first Icelandic settlers were forced to get creative with their culinary style. A cold, sparse rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Iceland does not offer much in the way of fertile farmland. Icelandic farmer-fishers relied heavily on sheep, fish, and seabirds to survive. They became incredibly resourceful, using every part of the creature possible. This is where the tradition of preserving through drying, salting, smoking, and pickling started. These important preserving techniques ensured that food lasted through the harsh winters.

These old techniques have been revisited in recent years by modern chefs, instilling a renewed sense of national pride in the country’s food heritage. Part of the Slow Food Movement, which prioritises locally grown food over imports, the Icelandic food scene has a strong farm to table ethos.

What should I try?

With a blend of contemporary and traditional underpinning a thriving culinary scene, it can be difficult to decide what to try first. We’ve rounded up our five favourite dishes to get you started.

Fish

An Icelandic staple, you’ll find all sorts of fish prepared in multiple ways. With over 340 species of saltwater fish recorded in Icelandic waters, the options are plentiful. Haddock, Arctic char, monkfish, halibut, catfish, herring and skate are just a few of the regular menu options. For shellfish fans, the fresh shrimp, scallops, blue muscles, and langoustines won’t disappoint. Harðfiskur, a popular snack food eaten with butter, is a local favourite. It’s made from dehydrated haddock and sold in supermarkets and market stalls.

Reykjavik’s Hot Dog

An unlikely top candidate in an increasingly foodie country, Reykjavik’s Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur has been selling its world-famous hot dogs for over 60 years. Frequented by locals as well as tourists, this casual eatery makes hot dogs from a blend of beef, lamb and pork. The hot dogs are served with deep-fried onions, raw onions, brown mustard, and creamy remoulade.

Lamb

One of few cattle species that thrive on the rough landscape, Iceland’s sheep live a pleasant life. During summer they roam freely, enjoying the chemical-free grasses and herbs in the highlands and valleys. In the winter they are brought indoors, where they are protected from the elements. This relatively agreeable life means that Icelandic lamb is very tender and flavoursome.

Rye bread

Icelanders have been enjoying Rúgbrauð, a traditional Icelandic rye bread, for centuries. Traditionally this bread was made in a steamed wooden casket buried in the ground near a hot spring. The bread is often served with butter or topped with smoked lamb, salmon or trout.

Fermented shark

One of the less appealing traditional Icelandic dishes, some might be relieved to hear that fermented shark is no longer part of the daily Icelandic diet. It has become more of a heritage dish, served mostly to brave tourists. Traditionally the shark was soaked in urine and placed underground to ‘ferment’, but thankfully these days vinegar is used instead.

Sample the wild and the wonderful of Iceland’s culinary scene on our eight-day Iceland Circumnavigation cruise.