The Nordic region has long fascinated the rest of the world. The beautiful landscapes and architecture are just some of the things on offer. But the Nordic countries, especially Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, have so much more to offer. Did you know they have some extremely interesting delicacies, for instance? Here are six of them, ranging from mildly surprising to eye-popping.
Skrei: Try some delicious cod tongue
A Norwegian delicacy, skrei (pronounced “sk-rey”) is a type of seasonal, premium-grade cod. But the fish, while delicious in its own right, is more popular for its tongue. Cod tongue actually refers to the underside of the fish’s chin. Getting to the tongue is an art in itself, one that can pay quite well too!
While there are several ways of cooking the tongues, one of the simplest and yummiest is to toss them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper, and then frying them with butter.
Øllebrød: Get your beer and sugar fix in the morning
Think of porridge. Now think of bread, and add beer to the mix. What you have just imagined, is Øllebrød (pronounced “ooh-le-brooht”). The word can arguably mean ‘beer bread’, or oddly delicious porridge depending on which Dane you ask. Similar to porridge, the popular Danish dish is made with leftover rye bread soaked in non-alcoholic beer. Once thoroughly soaked, the mixture is cooked with an assortment of ingredients. A bit of sugar, fruit or honey makes it less bitter, or for those who love all things tangy, orange zest does the trick.
Theories about the history of this unique dish abound. While some believe monks invented it, others claim it originated from the homes of farmers. Regardless of how it came about, here’s a great excuse to have beer for breakfast!
Isterband: Sausage with a twist
Sausages provide a wealth of opportunity for experimentation, and this is no different. A southern Swedish delicacy, Isterband (pronounced ‘ister-bent’) is a pork sausage which also includes potatoes and barley (yes, barley!). Ground meat, potatoes and barley are filled into sausage casings and then hung near an open fireplace to dry. It is this process that causes bacterial activity, inducing fermentation that eventually gives the sausage its sour flavour.
In times past, this was a frugal dish consumed by seafarers because it could be preserved without spoiling. Today, isterband is traditionally eaten in Sweden during festive occasions such as Christmas, when it is served with pickled beetroots or a variety of vegetables. If you do decide to try it, make sure to slice the sausage lengthwise to avoid it from cracking open when cooked!
Smalahove: For those with a strong stomach
This Norwegian delicacy is not for the weak-hearted! Usually eaten around Christmas, smalahove (pronounced sma-la-hovve’) is cooked sheep’s head. Popular in western Norway – especially the town of Voss – the wool is first burned off the head, followed by the splitting of the skull and removing of the brain. The head is then soaked in water, salted, smoked, and then boiled or steamed.
Of course, eating meat off an animal’s head is no small feat, so some suggest starting at the ear or eye, which are the fattiest parts, and working towards the back of the head and between the teeth (we told you, it’s not for the weak).
Potatoes are the most common accompaniment to this dish, along with aquavit (cumin schnapps). Smalahove can also be found in Icelandic and ancient Jewish cuisines.
Cloudberries: Hunt for a pot of gold
Now here’s a truly rare fruit! The cloudberry grows in Arctic climates, and finding it can be quite an activity in Norway, Sweden or Finland. Red when unripe and orange when ready, these little fruits have a tart taste. They are often used for soups, syrups and compotes for meats.
In Norway, there are laws in place to protect this treasure, and failing to oblige might land you in prison. There is also etiquette attached to the picking of cloudberries. For instance, travelling into the mountains on foot is the way to go when picking these berries. Beating others in an off-road vehicle may be clever, but is frowned upon. No wonder then that these juicy berries have earned the nickname of ‘highland gold’.
The cloudberry grows in Arctic climates, and finding it can be quite an activity in Norway, Sweden or Finland
Mämmi: Love it or hate it, you can’t escape it
Mämmi (pronounced “mammy”) is a traditional Easter dish in Finland. Like many unique dishes, the taste for mämmi is an acquired one – you either love it or hate it. Similar to a pudding, mämmi is a dish with religious roots. According to home economics expert Asta Asunmaa, in ancient times people did not eat anything sweet before Easter. This tradition, as well as a paucity of raw ingredients, led to the idea of malting grain.
The intense flavour of malt and the bitter aftertaste are the prime reasons that some traditional dessert lovers have a problem identifying with mämmi. However, for those who grow up with this dish, it’s an unmistakeable reminder of home and the festive season.
To make mämmi, all you need is water, rye flour and malt. When prepared with cream and sugar, it also becomes more dessert-like. Some recipes add in orange peel and a variety of nuts for taste. It is easy to overcook mämmi, so perhaps it’s best prepared under the watchful eye of a Finnish friend.
Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden have a whole lot to offer, and these traditional dishes with colourful histories are just a taster. The beauty of these countries is that even if the above dishes are not to your taste, you are sure to find something else that is! So book your flights now and explore these wonderful lands!
From 26 May to 26 June 2017, come down to Changi Airport Terminal 3 Departure Hall for a Nordic experience with your favourite Sanrio characters! Explore our Nordic Exhibition to discover the unique attractions of each country and stand to win tickets to your favourite one. Find out more here!