A stop for an Icelandic hotdogThe Icelandic Hotdog is an absolute top ten Icelandic food you must try. There is no fast food that comes close in popularity to the Icelandic Hot Dog. We call them Pylsur or Pulsur. The best hot dog you find are the ones sold at Bæjarins Bestu. That literally means The Town‘s Best. And it‘s actually true. And that, of course, is where we stop in our Reykjavik Food Tour.

So how to order a hot dog? The easiest thing to do is to order „one with everything“. That means you will be served a hot dog in a soft bread bun with raw onions, fried onions, ketchup, lightly spiced mustard and remoulade. Remoulade is a mayonnaise that has been mixed with gherkins and capers. Bill Clinton came to Iceland some years ago and asked for one with just mustard. We call it the Clinton. But I for one think he made a serious mistake, it is just so much better with all the other stuff. No decent Icelander would have just the mustard!

The hot dog itself is made with mostly lamb but also pork, and beef. Its rich in flavor and at the Town‘s Best they are rumored to be braised in beer.

The Town‘s Best is one of the oldest companies in Reykjavik, serving hot dogs now for over 80 years. It is a family run company and they have been selling hot dogs for over four generations now. They have stalls in six places, one of them in the center of Reykjavik just by Kolaportið, the Reykjavík Flea Market. You can read our blog on the market here. One of the reasons they have maintained their status is that despite much success they never went posh. They have in fact stayed exactly the same, never extended their menu or even changed the hot dog stand. They just stick to what the people love, a good old Icelandic hot dog. And people queue in all kinds of weather and stand outside in the cold to enjoy that delicious bite of a warm hot dog.

For many generations now Icelanders have taken a drive with their families to the center and stopped at the hot dog stand, ended their evenings of beer drinking at the hot dog stand, their Saturday or Sunday walk at the hot dog stand or a walk with the dog, who also would enjoy a bite at the hot dog stand. I for one have grown up doing all of that.

The opening hours are also quite good or on Sundays through Thursdays from 10 am – 2 am and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 04:30 am so perfect during the weekends after a couple of beers.

One hot dog should be enough but honestly, a lot of people go for the second. Even if that means queuing again. Don‘t miss out on trying this delicious treat. By joining our Reykjavik Food Tour you will definitely enjoy an Icelandic Hot Dog, and so much more of what Reykjavik has to offer for your taste buds.

Rye Flatbread newly baked

Rye Flatbread is a traditional Icelandic food and definitely one of the top ten foods to try in Iceland. Every time I ask Valur if he needs anything from the store the answer is always flatbread. He really loves it and actually, so do I and our three year old. It‘s a part of our every day diet. We have it with butter and cheese or butter and smoked lamb. I had it once with both and that really got Valur going. Cheese and smoked lamb together – how could I! Well honestly, that and so much more is excellent on flatbread. Restaurants are starting to appreciate it in greater numbers, offering it with various salads, smoked salmon and more.

In our Reykjavik Food Tour, we stop by Reykjavik Flea Market: the Kolaportið, if the tour is on during the weekend (As the flea market is only open from 11am to 5pm on Saturday’s and Sunday’s). You can read our blog about the Kolaportið here. There we have rye flatbread with butter and smoked lamb and you can also buy some in the food stalls, as well as many other traditional Icelandic delicacies.

Rye Flatbread is the poor man‘s bread. It is a thin rounded bread traditionally made only with rye and water. Sometimes barley or moss instead of rye. Rye has little gluten and lacks lifting qualities making the bread only about 2 millimeters thick, which explains the name flatbread. Prior to modern cooking methods, the bread was baked in a pot or directly on a stove. The bread is round shaped and is normally cut in half or four pieces. Today other ingredients have been added such as flour, salt, and even sugar.

The Icelandic Rye Flatbread goes back centuries  – even back to the settlement of Iceland in 874 AD. The Icelandic climate is not favorable to growing corn so bread was not a big part of the Icelandic diet. People had butter on dried fish, not bread (and we still do sometimes!). But Rye can be grown in cold climates. That is why flatbread was so common and has very strong roots in our culture. For example, it plays a big part in the Thorrablót, the Icelandic mid-winter festivals. The festivals are held across the country throughout the month of Thorri, which begins on Husband’s Day in January and ends on Woman’s Day in February.

If you like to try it just pop into the next grocery shop. With a bit of luck, you can find it in some cafes and restaurants. Or simply join our Reykjavik Food Tour!

Reykjavik Flea market

If you like strolling through markets and see people from all walks of life the Reykjavik flea market is for you! It’s the biggest flea market in Reykjavik, it’s named Kolaportið and it’s very popular among the locals. It’s right in the center at Tryggvagata 19 (by the famous hot dog stand) and you can enter on opposite ends of the building and also the side facing the Harpa concert hall. This flea market has it all and is one of our food stops in our Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour if it’s open.
We also pass the flea market in our Walk with a Viking.

Reykjavik Flea market

From the food market inside the Reykjavik Flea Market

The market is a great place to go if you are hungry, cold, looking for something to read, a souvenir or a gift for someone. You can find all sorts of delicacies in the food stalls and beautiful hand-knitted goods made with Icelandic wool, often sold by the ladies who make them. It is a great opportunity to strike up a conversation and learn about Icelandic patterns and knitting. You can also find all kinds of arts and crafts, antiques, toys, clothes, and books. In one corner of the market, there is a café with a seating area which sells traditional Icelandic bread and pastries.

We recommend you visit the food stalls and try some licorice, dried fish and for the brave-hearted, fermented shark. We also recommend you have a seat in the café of the flea market situated in the corner closest to the Harpa concert hall and have some flatbread with smoked lamb, pancakes and fried dough (kleina). Then we, of course, can’t praise the Icelandic wool masters enough for knitting those beautiful sweaters, gloves, scarves, and hats that keep us all warm during winter. You can also find one of a kind vintage clothing, books in English and beautiful locally made jewelry.

It is wise to show up with some cash in your pocket as not everyone accepts bank cards. There is an atm/cash point by one of the entrances.  You can also try to haggle a bit, some of the sellers are there every weekend while others are just there for one time only and are willing to sell their things quickly and for cheap.

Kolaportið is open on weekends from 11 am to 5 pm (11-17).

For centuries Icelanders had to find ways to store food during long and cold winters. That was before refrigiators and modern technology. One of those „delicacies“ and one of Iceland‘s national dishes is fermented shark or kæstur hákarl, which we of course offer a taste of on our Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour. One way to know if you are being offered a fermented shark is the overwhelming smell that refuses to leave your nostrils for a serious amount of time. That’s why we tell first timers to pinch their nose while taking the first bite and be quick to wash it down with a shot of brennivín (very strong alcohol). Sounds good right!

Some of the most famous chefs in the world have come to Iceland and tried the fermented shark. Anthony Bourdain described it as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he has ever eaten and Gordon Ramsay simply spat it out. But each to his own, the shark is well appreciated among many. Well, at least many Icelanders.

The Greenland shark (or other sleeper shark) is cured with a particular fermentation process. The shark is gutted and beheaded and placed in a shallow hole dug in gravelly sand. The shark is completely covered with sand and piled stones on top for 6-12 weeks depending on the season.  This way the fluids are pressed out of the meat. The shark is than cut into strips and hung to dry for four to five months. The crust is removed prior to cutting the shark into small pieces and serving. Often served/sold in a small plastic container where it has been cut in small cubicles. That’s when a toothpick in your wallet comes in handy.

The meat is actually poisonous when fresh but may be consumed after being processed correctly so no need to worry, it’s perfectly safe to consume from the stores or markets in Iceland. You will be able to find it in most supermarkets. Few advices though. Do not open the container in your car. Do not open the container in your hotel room either. To be completely honest, it is best eaten outside.

Icelandic cuisine has been changing and developing fast for the last few decades, proudly using local ingredients and creating new courses based on traditional Icelandic ones. This week one of the top restaurants in Reykjavik, Dill, earned a Michelin Star, the first one ever given to an Icelandic restaurant.

Icelandic cuisine is traditionally based on lamb and various fishes, such as haddock, cod and salmon. Often the food was cured, salted or fermented to store over winter. Today these old methods are still used to produce particular delicacies with a modern twist also to suit a more international crowd.

The meat or fish are often accompanied with potatoes, turnips, carrots or cabbage, which are often called winter vegetables. Than traditional milk products such as skyr, sour milk (kind of yogurt) and berries found in Iceland have been turned into delicious desserts.

We are so happy that Icelandic cuisine has now  been recognized internationally and would like to congratulate Dill on this great accomplishment.

 

 

 

Icelanders have always had a thing for licorice. To many travellers’ surprise, so much of the sweets contain some kind of licorice. We don‘t really know why except for the fact that its just so good! Few decades ago foreign sweets were unavailable due to import restriction which explains why so many of our sweet treats are local products.

So to start, we have Opal and Topas. Its a rubber like licorice pills and for some reason we usually have a pack in our cars. Like gum and sunglasses. They also make strong alcohol with them. To be honest we used to make it ourselves by putting Opal or Topas pills in vodka and let it stand for a few days to get the flavour in. Those were the days – now we can buy it in stores and its very popular to be served as shots.

Draumur (Dream) is a chocolate bar with two licorice pipes in the middle. Appolo licorice is soft and comes in many shapes and sizes but mostly with marzipan. Djúpur are white snowballs filled with chocolate and licorice in the middle. Careful, they are dangerously addictive. Did we mention that we also love licorice with pepper? You can get Djúpur with pepper. It‘s like entering a blackout. You only remember having a few when the bag is finished. Appolo also has marzipan filled licorice with pepper. Last but not least, one of our favorite treats are Þristur (Three). It‘s a kind of chocolate filled with rubber like chocolate with small pieces of licorice inside and was voted an all time favorite among Icelanders. If you join our Reykjavik Food Lovers tour youll get a taste of some of those licorice based sweets.

Local sweets are such a big part of our eating habits Icelanders living abroad get them sent to where ever they live by family members or friends to not get too homesick. True story.

If you really don‘t like licorice you‘re not completely out of luck. Have a Hraun, a lava shaped chocolate buisquit, chocolate covered raisins (also come with pepper flavor) or möndlur, which are almond shaped caramels.

You can order your Icelandic sweets here

So skyr to us is what cheese is to you (at least if you‘re European)! We have it for breakfast, lunch or afternoon snack. It has been a part of the Icelandic traditional diet since the country was settled in the 900 and is mentioned many times in the Icelandic sagas. It was known throughout the Nordic countries but eventually forgotten except in Iceland.

But what is skyr? It‘s made of pasteurized skimmed milk. It tastes a bit sour but with a hint of residual sweetness. It‘s quite unique but out of all dairy it resembles a greek yoghurt the most. Skyr is a very popular product in Iceland and embraced by many athletes as it is so high in protein. Traditionally skyr is served with milk and sugar. Today you can find a large variety of flavors at any grocery store, as well as it is often used in fruit smoothies and desserts. It‘s easy to grab at the store, not to mention that it is very cheap, or around 1 Euro a piece. The flavored ones have added sugar so the natural flavored skyr is always the healthiest choice. You can always add some sugar and fruit yourself. At our home we love to make a skyr fruit boozt with a dash of ginger.

At restaurants you will often find skyr-based desserts on the menu, such as cheescake and icecream. Skyr cake is very popular among the locals, which is like cheese cake, except with skyr. If you join our Reykjavik Food Lovers tour we will offer you a fantastic skyr dessert. One thing is for sure, you shouldn‘t leave without trying!   You can get a version of Skyr in the States

The delicious Icelandic Puffin

We just added a delicious Puffin taster to The Reykjavik Food Lovers tour

Iceland is the largest Atlantic puffin colony in the world with around 66% of the total puffin stock. They have been hunted for centuries by Icelanders and have been an important food source.

We like them best when they are smoked but they can also be salted or boiled in a milk sauce.

Gordon Ramsey got his nose bitten by one when trying to hunt them. You can watch that here if you feel like having a good laugh 🙂

You can get your taste of Puffin with us on our Food Tour and/or grab a bite in some of the traditional Icelandic Restaurants.

The Icelandic Kjötsúpa is known as cure for all. Cold, the flu, hangover, winter blues that comes with dark days and even a broken heart. It warms you from within and tastes delicious, reminding you of the basic joys of life. Seriously, I‘m not exaggerating. It really makes everything better.

So what‘s in this magical soup? Lamb ofcourse. I mean we have more of those than people. Then we have mixed winter vegetables, dried herbs and somtimes rice. You can add or skip whatever you like, for your own personal taste. I‘m sure if you travel around Iceland and have Kjötsúpa at each place it will never taste exactely the same. It actually reflects the Icelandic character a bit, people sing to their own tune. Very unruly people I tell you.

So how do you make this Icelandic wonder soup? Which is actually also eaten at summer time. Because it‘s never that warm here.

Ingredients are:

  • 1kg soup meat (lamb shoulder) preferably with bones
  • 1,8 liter water
  • 1 tablespoon salt (more or less depends on taste)
  • 1-2 tablesoons dried herbs
  • ½ onion
  • 500gr turnip (rutabaga)
  • 500gr potatoes
  • 250gr carrots
  • 100gr white cabbage
  • Fresh black pepper

You can also add more vegetables and even rice and boil them with the soup. If you feel like rice, add some, if not, skip them.

You start by trimming the meat of any excess fat, which you can get a frosen bag of in any Icelandic grocery store marked especially for soup. At least the stores who have any self respect. You then place the meat in a large pot with water and heat slowly to a boil. Skim the broth and add salt, herbs and onion. Let the soup simmer for about 40 minutes. Peel the turnip, potatoes and carrots and slice them into beautifully shapes animals. Just kidding. Slice them into fairly chunky pieces but not too big for a spoonful. Add them into the pot and let simmer for 15 minutes. Than add the cabbage and let it simmer for 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper as you wish. If you feel the soup has gotten to thick or lacks in liquid, just add some water.

You can serve the soup with all the ingredients or, like many people do, including my mum and me, lift the meat out from the soup and serve it seperately. That makes it easier for people to cut the meat and add it to their bowl of soup themselves.

This serves 4-6 people, depending on your appetite. Try not to invite too many people. The soup is even more delicious the day after.

Enjoy!