The traditional foods of Iceland might not be to everyone’s liking — you know those Vikings and their palates for all things fermented! In fact, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain said the only food he’d never try again would be the Icelandic delicacy of fermented shark. Now that’s pretty bad. I’ve seen the crazy things he’s eaten.
On this trip we tried a wide variety of local food and drinks. Here’s our top recommendations (and no, it doesn’t include any sharks…whales or puffins!).
10. Angelica Tea
Okay, so it smells like twigs. But don’t let that stop you for drinking this special tea. One of the most popular blends in Iceland is made with moss, birch tree and Angelica (which is basically a weed that runs wild all over Scandinavia). Clearly, this might not be everybody’s, well, cup of tea (ba dum dum). Trust us, it tastes better than it sounds (or smells). Plus, it has some great health benefits. According to the label, it helps with respiration, digestion, circulation and guards against gout, rheumatism, and water retention. Oh, and promotes liver function. Who knows, but it tasted surprisingly good.
9. Dried Fish
Again, something I’d never eat if it wasn’t given to me. We sampled this in the “Meet the Natives” class (#1 in our top 5 things to do in Reykjavik). You’ll find dried fish (typically haddock or cod) at most convenience stores and gas stations across the country. It’s sort of like the Icelandic travel snacks for the road. And not only that, most Icelanders slab butter all over it. Again, it’s a case of ‘it tastes better than it sounds.’
8. Traditional Baked Goods in Local Iceland Bakery
Every little town has a bakery. Typically, the hot spot in town, too. There are so many delicious items to choose from. But pretty much every bakery will include a traditional Icelandic Keinur for desert – which is a twisted fried doughnut.
7. Iceland Candy
Okay, maybe all the Icelandic cold weather made me crave sweets? I actually don’t need an excuse! But one place you’ll want to pop into in Reykjavik is Vínberið, where you’ll find a wide range of local and Swedish gummies. Our favorite? A gummy called Tritlar, which oddly was in the shape of humans. I mean, we were eating gummy humans! A little morbid, but we would grab a bag of these pretty much at every gas station we stopped at (and I even brought a few packs home!).
Finally, something little lighter to try. Skyr is Icelandic dairy product that is light with very little fat. It’s often referred to as yogurt. Though, technically it’s a strained, skim-milk cheese. It’s now starting to pop up at many US grocery stores. But for some reason, it tasted so much better here.
Okay, you’re thinking… Pizza, really? Well, it had to make our list. We ate pizza for dinner nearly every night. Iceland is notoriously expensive, especially for food at restaurants. It’s far from everywhere and most food needs to be imported. But most restaurants will offer pizza on the menu. Typical entrees cost around $50-$70 USD, even at regular establishments. While pizza, was about $30 USD for a personal pan (that we’d share!).
4. Viking Beer
What pairs well with pizza? Beer! And the Icelanders sure know how to make good beer. You’ll also find a large number of microbrews in addition to several national brands. All of which were tasty.
3. Hot Dogs
I’m not making this up – but hot dogs are a point of national pride in Iceland. Most towns will have a famous hot dog stand that is open much later than other places. Now I don’t even like hot dogs, but loved these. A typical Icelandic hot dog is served on a steamed bun and topped with raw white onions and crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, remoulade, (a sauce made with mayo) and herbs. Even Bill Clinton chowed down when he was in Iceland (and before he became a vegan).
2. Geyser Bread
Filling and dense – this bread is made in the ground in Iceland’s geothermal areas. Luckily, we didn’t find any dirt in our loaves. I think that would have killed it from the list! And like most typical Icelandic favorites, many locals will top it off with a slab of butter.
1. Tap Water
Anti-climactic? Maybe. But this is some seriously good water. Forget buying the bottled stuff. You’re in Iceland. And most of the tap water you’ll drink comes straight from a natural spring. Now only if I came up with the idea to bottle this stuff and send it to the states!