Monday, December 9, 2013

Awesome hot dogs, rotten shark, and puffin: Eating in Iceland

Fionn is an adventurous eater. If it's weird and on the menu, he will order it. Since Iceland is so geographically isolated, they have their fair share of weird foods. Fermented shark meat, roasted whale, smoked puffin...if you've ever had the desire, you can sample it here.

So, on to our weird Icelandic food roundup!

We arrived in Iceland on Thanksgiving Day, so we decided to feast Icelandic style by ordering a taster menu from Tapas Barinn in Reykjavik. First course?

Minke Whale with cranberry and malt sauce.

Now, obviously whale is a controversial menu item. We weren't expecting it and were a little surprised when it arrived. Locals we talked to were conflicted on it-some didn't like whaling while others claimed it was an old favorite from the days when whale meat was a cheap protein source for an impoverished country. Either way, we tried it. It tasted like gamey sirloin. It wasn't bad, but I wouldn't order it again.

Next was smoked puffin in a blueberry sauce. Since I have always wanted to go on a puffin watching tour, I wasn't too excited about eating one. I tried it, but it wasn't my thing. The meat is also very dark, which didn't help much. Meh.

Next were baked garlic lobster tails. The Icelandic lobsters are smaller than ones I've seen, but still delicious. Yum! This was our favorite course.

After that we had Icelandic sea-trout with peppers-salsa, pan-fried blue ling with lobster sauce, grilled Icelandic lamb, and for dessert, a white chocolate "Skýr" mousse with passionfruit coulis. Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt that tastes like Greek yogurt. We ate so much of it during our weekend in Iceland!

Sorry for the lack of pictures of the rest of our meal, our camera battery died!

One of the things we HAD to try while in Reykjavik was the famous "hotdog with everything" from Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, a hotdog stand that's been around since 1937. Every guidebook, blog, local Icelander, and even the in flight magazine told us we had to stop for one. At around $2 a piece, we were happy to stop!

We stumbled upon the hot dog stand and got in line with some very Viking looking locals. Fionn and I split one and waited to see if the "Icelandic national food" lives up to the hype.

Verdict? It was pretty dang tasty. The hot dogs are made of lamb, which sit on a bed of raw and crunchy fried onion and topped with ketchup, sweet mustard, and remoulade, a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish. We should have ordered 2!

Next to the famous hot dog stand is the building housing the Saturday flea market. It's a bit of a sprawling mess, but you can find some interesting things in there. Fionn was drawn to the food area, and when saleslady offered him a tasty of Hakarl, he promptly took her up on it and even bought a little cup of it for himself.

What is Hakarl, you ask? It's rotten shark. The Greenland shark's meat is poisonous if eaten fresh, so it's buried underground for a few months, dug up, and hung out to dry for a few months. Anthony Bourdain called it "the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing" he has ever eaten and Chef Gordon Ramsey spat it out when he tried it. Most people gag when they first eat it.

Fionn, everyone. Stomach of steel.

delicious rotten shark for sale

I tried some and DID NOT like it. It tasted like ammonia and rotten fish. It was awful. Fionn is crazy.

After that lovely experience we moved on to find some pastries, finding a fish cake instead...

and then Fionn bought me an Icelandic twisted donut to wash the Hakarl taste from my mouth. 
Thanks, dude.

From there we found Icelandic Fish and Chips, an organic bistro that puts an Icelandic spin on an English classic. They use a spelt batter for their fish, their chips are roasted, not fried, and they had a ton of awesome dipping sauces made with the Icelandic yogurt, Skyr. Healthy, local, tasty. Yum :)

I got the fried Pollock with Basil-Garlic "Skyronaise" and Fionn got an amazing lobster soup with fresh bread. My fish was really good, but THAT SOUP. Be still my heart!! I could have eaten that every single day. 

Oh yes, and just like most of Iceland, there was FREE WATER. Sorry. After living in Germany so long the idea of free water is super exciting to me.

Our last night in Reykjavik we had an amazing dinner at a swanky restaurant but of course I forgot my camera. I'm an awful blogger, I know. Trust me when I say that (besides Hakarl) Iceland has an awesome food scene. So much of their food is organic and local because they have strict rules governing imports, and the country is small enough that they can have this sort of small scale food production that yields majorly delicious results.

Plus, everything was pretty affordable! You're not going to find crazy cheap meals in all the restaurants, but the prices were reasonable-about on par with what you'd pay to eat out in Germany. 

So...are you hungry?


  1. I've heard interesting things about the food in Iceland, it looks like you found some good eats. I'm impressed Fionn ate the hakarl - the description alone is enough to convince me it's not a good idea - but kudos if he kept it down.

    1. He had three pieces before he threw in the towel. Insanity. Apart from that, Iceland has some super tasty food. There's definitely an up and coming food scene there

  2. Can't wait to try these hotdogs I've been hearing all about and the skyr and of course lobster!

    1. They are all fabulous. I was pretty surprised by how good the hot dogs were. You can find Skyr in all the stores and it comes in a lot of tasty flavors. And the lobster! Try it in all forms-soup, roasted, smothered in garlic butter. yum!

  3. Fionn is a freaking food warrior! Me, I'd stick with the lobster tail and hot dogs :)

    1. Haha the boy is fearless! I'm with you on that one...I don't like indigestion thanks

  4. You're really brave for at least trying the shark, I don't think I would have! I don't know that I could have eaten puffin either, they are too cute!

    1. I agree with you about puffin. I let Fionn eat most of that haha