Like most desolate countries near the Arctic, nothing really grows in Iceland except maybe potatoes. Potatoes, as we know from watching the Martian, are a versatile crop which grow even on Mars if you egg it on enough.
So anyway, Iceland food invariably relies on meat and seafood (and a lot of seafood at that), especially in the winters. Whatever other crops are grown, they are grown in greenhouses powered by Iceland’s abundant, renewable geothermal energy.
If you’re looking or authentic, traditional Iceland food to try, then whales are a big thing in Iceland. Some people have ethical concerns regarding eating whale, so it’s best not to go down that lane. Sheep head is also a popular item on Icelandic menus. Sheep are incredibly valuable to Icelanders, as it’s a perennial source of milk and wool, so more useful alive than dead. When sheep are slaughtered, it is made sure that no part goes to waste, which is why sheep head is so commonly eaten.
For the rest of us who want to dip into the culture but don’t quite possess Bear Grylls’s guts, here’s a less adventurous, but equally interesting list of popular Iceland food.
The versatile Skyr
Skyr is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before. The texture feels like greek yogurt but it’s actually a type of soft cheese. It is incredibly healthy and has no fat in it and the Icelanders eat it all the time. They make smoothies out of it called “drykkur”, they eat it as a dipping sauce and also as a dessert with some fruit toppings. Enter any grocery store in Iceland, the jars of skyr will be easy to locate.
The iconic Icelandic hot dog
The hot dog in Iceland is made of beef and pork sausage, but it has an addition of lamb in it as well. The thing about Iceland’s meat industry is that the poultry and cattle are allowed to roam free on lush Icelandic highlands, and are raised without growth hormones or other drugs. This means the meat is incredibly tender with high quality flavour, and very nutritious.
If you’re doing a tour around the country, say, the Iceland Golden Circle, and are stumped in the food department as everything is so expensive and the taste is a hit and miss, the best advice in this case is to go to the nearest gas station and buy yourself a hot dog. You will not regret it.
When Bill Clinton visited Iceland as President, he asked for his hot dog with only mustard on it, and the national newspapers of Iceland made fun of him for that. True story.
Icelandic hot dogs are an elaborate affair, and when ordering from a cart, it is best to ask for “eina meo ollu” which means “one with everything”. This everything will entail a sweet brown mustard, ketchup, deep friend onions and a tangy remoulade, which is a kind of seafoof dressing made with mustard, mayo, and herbs. Delicious.
Yes they eat cute puffins as well
Puffins are those cute little seafaring birds of temperate and tundra climes. The meat actually tastes quite all right, and is worth at least one try. The puffin industry is a source of employment for a sizable number of people, and by all accounts, puffins aren’t under threat from being eaten in Iceland so you can rest your conscience.
Hardfiskur or wind dried haddock
Meat and poultry is all very well, but seafood remains at the heart of Icelandic cuisine. Wind dried fish is especially popular, and comes in various forms from thin wafers to crunchy pieces. It is usually eaten with a thin layer of butter. Haddock is a popular fish for this, but be warned that it smells incredibly fishy.
A drink to wash down all that Iceland food
Iceland’s national drink is called Brennivin, and it’s made from caraway and distilled potatoes. It is customary to drink a shot after a bite of fermented shark, but heed this advice when we say you should skip the shark and just drink that shot. Seriously. You do not want to taste fermented shark.