As part of a New Year’s resolution, I’m cooking a dish from each country around the world. Check out my progress here!
From Denmark, we move on to Norwegian cuisine (in my attempt to cook a dish from each country around the world… a feat that is going a bit slower than I hoped but we move forward!).
As with other Scandinavia cuisines, there is much overlap in what I’ve seen from other countries and Norway’s cuisine (lots of rustic meat dishes and herring etc). But I did find some dishes that were particularly interesting and some facts that surprised me about the Norwegians and their food.
– Did you know Jalsberg cheese (a cheese I grew up eating) is from Norway? Who knew!
– Apparently, Norwegians are the world’s leading coffee consumer.
– A major export has historically been stockfish which is a dried cod. Lutefisk, a popular dish, is made by stepping stockfish in lye (which originated in a time before refrigeration and thus was the best way to preserve fish).
– Moonshine is found in rural Norway, although illegal for personal consumption.
– And finally, while I’m familiar with gralax (or cured salmon) this was the first time I’ve heard of salt and sugar cured meat, particularly moose. I’d be totally into trying moose or other game one day (although maybe not cured in this way).
I should also note that in each post about respective Scandinavia country’s cuisines on Wikipedia (my main source) there is discussion of particular Christmas foods. I wonder if this is common place in discussing a country’s cuisine or specific and particularly special in these countries. For example, did you know? In Western Norway, Pinnekjøtt, or smoked mutton ribs are often served at Christmas dinner with pureed rutabaga and potatoes. apparently “31% of Norwegians say they eat pinnekjøtt for their family Christmas dinner” — I just love how this statistic was included on Wikipedia. Another interesting Christmas dish is Syltelabb, which is boiled, salt-cured pig’s feet. They are finger food and traditionally served with Christmas ale. And finally, another popular dish during holidays is a salted and boiled sheep’s head!
But of the many Norwegian classics, I decided to make Fiskesuppe or Fish Soup made famous in the West coast of Norway in Bergen. Now, I have to say, I was a little wary of this dish — while I love clam chowder and lobster bisque, for whatever reason fish soup weirds me out a little (don’t ask me why, but it does). It’s also ridiculously hot and humid here in DC (where I am for the weekend) so maybe soup isn’t the best idea…. though at least we are in icy central air at the moment. Plus, my dad and Mark are always up for my wacky culinary plans so it’s really the best time to make this last Scandinavia dish!
The key component to Bergen fish soup is the balance between sweet and sour. In this recipe, as is common in cooking of this region, you both add a sweet and sour ingredient, in this case sugar and red wine vinegar to taste. This balance is common in Scandinavia cooking as I’ve seen through cooking through these countries (ex. sour pickle juice in swedish meatballs in a sweet ligonberry sauce or curing salmon with salt and sugar) and perfecting this makes for an amazing soup!
I also decided to make fish dumplings, which are a traditional addition to this soup! I adapted the recipe for the dumplings from the Nordic Nibbler, a Brit ex-pat living in Norway, who not only makes classic Norwegian specialities from time to time, but also has dined at some of my bucket list restaurants all around the world!
We used a mix of fish fillets – cod, swordfish and salmon. My recipe suggested monkfish and hailbut, which would have also been great, but our supermarket didn’t have any. Swordfish was a great addition though!
** Also, my dad had leftover frozen broth from when they made mussels recently. We added that to our fish stock along with a little broth from oysters we used as well. Homemade fish stock would have been ideal (our supermarket didn’t have a good selection of seafood stock), but supplementing the boxed stuff with this mussel broth was great!
Bergen Fish Soup
Adapted from New Scandinavian Cooking
3 quarts fish stock**
4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
I large celeriac, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 small parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 to 2 tbsp all-purpose flour for thickening
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar, or to taste
sea salt to taste
1½ pounds mixed fish fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks
Fish Dumplings (recipe follows)
Chopped fresh chives for garnish (optional)
Bring the fish stock to a boil in a large pot. Add the vegetables, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Whisk the flour with the cream in a small bowl and add to the soup. Bring to a boil. Add the sugar and vinegar to taste; the soup should have a subtle sweet-and-sour flavor. Add the fish and fish dumplings, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes, until the fish is just cooked.
Adapted from Nordic Nibbler
1/2 lb cod fillet (skin and bones removed)
1 small egg
1 tbsp flour
Salt and white pepper to taste
Process ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Form the mixture into small dumplings and add to the soup.
As they say in Norwegian, Vær så god!
And with this we are done with Scandinavia, moving on to Iceland (the last of the Nordic countries)!
- Bring the fish stock to a boil in a large pot. Add the vegetables, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Whisk the flour with the cream in a small bowl and add to the soup. Bring to a boil. Add the sugar and vinegar to taste; the soup should have a subtle sweet-and-sour flavor.
- Process cod, egg, and flour in a food processor until smooth. Form the mixture into small dumplings and add to the soup.
- Add the fish and fish dumplings, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes, until the fish is just cooked.
- Pour the soup into bowls, dividing the fish and dumplings evenly. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve immediately.