Weird is a matter of opinion, isn't it? One person's idea of weird food is another person's favourite childhood dish. Nothing could be much stranger my own childhood comfort food of haggis. It's a famous Scottish dish and is various part of a sheep (the bits that might be otherwise thrown out), ground up with spices and oats and cooked inside a sheep's stomach. It sounds like something you'd probably cross the street to avoid, but I can assure you that if you haven't eaten haggis you really should. It's fragrant, slightly spicey and the ultimate winter comfort food. Another of my comfort foods is something that became an absolute favourite of mine at the age of 4 and still is a favourite - escargots, or snails in garlic butter.
The same applies to some of the more unusual Norwegian foods. You will most likely recognise many and find them a perfectly normal dish, but I've thrown in a few that you might not have heard of and one particularly controversial one.
I am starting with something that's a familiar food on the table of many nations. Moose. So many cuisines in the northern hemisphere delight in moose meat, most particularly for the quantity one gets from one moose and that fact that it's a wonderful free range meat. In fact, wild food at it's best. In Norway, moose is very common food in everyday dishes and something definitely worth trying if you are ever here.
There is a heritage of reindeer herding from the Sami that stretches back thousands of years.. The Sami are Europe's only indigenous people and their land stretches across Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia with reindeer at the heart of their culture. The reindeer are far from tame and rather than being farmed they roam wild across the tundra in a life that is deeply intwined with the Sami. It's such a crucial part of Sami culture that only Sami are allowed to herd reindeer in Norway. much of the reindeer that is sold in the shops is free range and there is very little to no farmed meat. It has a very distinctive, gamey flavour that is easily recognisable. one of the most well-known dishes is the Sami dish of finnbiff, a rich, creamy stew of reindeer. Totally delicious!
This probably brings me the closest to haggis than I am ever going to find in Norway. Lung mince is not entirely lung meat. It's a spiced mixed of finely minced organ meat and if you don't think too hard about it's origins it's something you will really enjoy. It's often served very simply with boiled potatoes.
If you closed your eyes when you are being served smalahove and took a deep breath you would be greeted by a rich, smokey meaty aroma that instantly makes you salivate. And provided you can get past the way smalahove looks you will be in for a delicious and tasty treat. It's both meaty and smokey and surprisingly tender, although there is very little meat on it,
Smalahove is something that is most commonly seen in western Norway where there are plenty of sheep farms and every part of the animal would have been eaten. The sheep's head is cleaned and then smoked and finally salted and dried. Traditionally it would have been something eaten by the poorest in the community because it was not the choicest cut of meat, but we know now that those parts are usually the tastiest and that if we are going to eat meat we should be eating "nose to tail" and not unnecessarily throwing it away. Smalahove is a delicious dish in my opinion and the rich smokey smell as it's heating is more than enough to make the mouth of any self-respecting carnivore water.
Let's take some cod, dry it and then soak it in caustic soda for a while and then eat it when it's started to become gelatinous. You couldn't make this stuff up could you? But lutefisk is a well known (and often well loved) dish with Norwegians not only in Norway, but throughout the world. It's a symbol of Norwegian-ness and a subject of fierce debate - "are you a lutefisk eater or not?!"
Most commonly eaten at Christmas, lutefisk is a very regional dish. In my part of Norway in the south east you will more often find pork on the Christmas menu, but lutefisk is a staple of the Christmas dinner table on the west coast.
Thankfully never served to you whole and recognisable, cods tongues are a delicacy at certain times of year and again fill that need to eat the whole animal and not put anything to waste. It's a practice we should all be striving for.
This has to be my least favourite food found in Scandinavia. In fact liquorice in everything! But you take a bite of what you are expecting to be a sweet candy only to discover it's covered in a fine dusting of salt.
A controversial one! Very controversial!! But there is no skirting the subject of whale meat if you spend any time in Norway. It's a meat that is found in most supermarkets and often on the menu of restaurants at certain times of year. The Norwegian government likes to tell everyone that the consumption of whale meat is on the rise, but if you talk to most people they eat it rarely unless they live in certain parts of the country or have a deep cultural heritage of eating it.
How many of these more unusual Norwegian foods have you eaten? Would you try them all? I'd love to hear your opinions on them.
We're discussing this and other Nordic living topics in the Living a Nordic Life Facebook group. Why not join us!