Norwegian cuisine focuses on high quality, local ingredients such as the fresh seafood (Salmon and Arctic Cod) and game meats (lamb, reindeer). I wouldn’t call it the most exciting of cuisines, but there is still a lot to eat in Norway.
I would head to a grocery store to best experience this meal and buy the following items.
- Brunost – a caramelized cheese that is not only a local staple, but unique and delicious. Eat over toasted bread with coffee
- Rokt Laks – smoked salmon; create an “open-faced sandwich”, another local staple, with the salmon, cheese, and whole grain bread
- Arctic Cod – trying Skrei is essential. Try fresh, try the tongue and cheek, and try it in a dish such as Bacalao. (See below for more).
- Raspeballar – I recommend trying a hearty meal of lamb, sausage, and potato dumplings @ Kaffistova to get a good taste of some the traditional items
- The Grocery Meal (if you are looking for a cheap way to try some things – Rommegrot (porridge), Kjottboller (meatballs), & Fenlar (cured lamb)
- Pinnekjøtt – one of the Norwegian specialities here is Lamb, and due to the extreme climate most of the year preservation techniques such as salting is important. One such dish, typically eaten during holidays, is based of the lamb the picture above–after being soaked in water overnight and steamed for 4 hours.
- Other Specialities – Rakfisk (fermented trout), Fiskmannen (caviar), Lakserull (salmon fish wrap), fish soup, Fiskekaker (fish cakes), Lapskaus (meat stew), and interesting selection of meats here (Reindeer, Moose, and King Crab).
- As a tourist, whale is a delicacy to me, but here its a common food eaten for supply rather than demand. Minke whale populations rise fast and provide a source of meat/protein. Even though there is a quota in place, it’s often not reached. I didnt even know that whales were still hunted in this day and age. Soft meat, with a subtle taste–but surprisingly like beef.
- Oslo has some other great restaurants (Maemo, Hos Thea) but unfortunately due to an attempt to maintain a budget, we didn’t try too many of the famed ones
An Arctic Cod Aside
Arctic Cod is one of the the major products and exports of Norway. We headed out into the Norwegian Sea one of the mornings to catch some Arctic Cod visit the Lofoten Islands (officially one of my favorite place in the world) to mate. Using traditional jiggers we caught arctic and ling cod out in the water followed by coal fish in the fjords. Arctic cod are know for their size and fatty flavor and after cooking our catch I understand why they are so prized. Our catch was eaten fresh, but these guys are usually dried during this season to create the Torrfisk speciality.
The biggest export throughout Europe is Torrfisk or Stockfish; this export was also a commodity during the Viking age. Torrfisk is arctic cod which is hung to dry by the cold winds for preservation and cure through fermentation.
We are visited the island during the cod season which is the busiest for the fisherman here and often can see the fisherman hanging the new catch. After drying and maturing, this will be used rehydrated for dishes (local specialities or salted for bacalao in Spain) as a snack, or for lutefisk. Strong in taste, spongey in texture, with the smell of the fresh sea.
One of the coolest things that we were able to try due to having access to the fresh Cod was the Offal/Specialities, which usually don’t make the exports:
- Liver – clean by removing the veins, cover in batter with salt and pepper, and pan fry (or make a Pate)
- Cheek/Tongue – cover in batter with salt and paper, pan fry quickly (so good!)
- Roe – wrap in baking paper and poach for about 15 minutes, slice, pan fry
- The City – to get a feel of the major city sights, parks, building, and all, follow the walking tour: Opera House, Vigeland, Barcode, City Center, Mathallen, and the Nobel Peace Center (and surrounding areas)
- Museums – Oslo has many great options. Personally, I really enjoyed the Tram Museum and the Norwegian Cultural Museum.