All the butter in the world couldn’t make me like this dried catfish
I wanted to like it. I really did. Everywhere I went in Iceland, there it was: dried fish. Supermarkets, rest areas, gift shops, even at Sæmundur, the gastropub at Kex Hostel, where we stayed in Reykjavik. They all had it. So obviously, I had to try it.
And you know what? Open-minded as I am about food, I hated it.
I finally decided to order it at Sæmundur because I figured everything else I’d eaten there was great, so if dry fish was gonna be good anywhere, it’d be there. Yet when the dried catfish with butter came out, cutely served in a little glass jar… sigh… it was gross. Not in presentation, but absolutely in consistency and flavor. Each strip of silver-skinned fish was tough as an old sneaker and the taste was only slightly better. Even after I smothered a piece in butter, which by the way, was perfectly rich, soft and salted, the dried fish was awful. I chewed and chewed and chewed some more, until my jaw hurt and then I just swallowed the ol’ tough ball with a hard gulp, before sliding the rest of the glass jar back across the bar.
Bitafiskur… icelandic for “BLEGH, GROSS”
There’s a very short list of things I don’t like to eat, and I’m sorry to say, but icelandic dried fish, you just got added to that list.
With the exception of a good cuddle, a creamy hot chocolate or being burrito-wrapped in my down comforter, there are few things I find more comforting or instantly gratifying than hot soup when it’s cold outside. I feel warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it. (Also because New York is pretty chilly right now and I want all of the above.)
In Iceland, where it was frigid every single day we were there (not that I was expecting any different), I probably had soup at least twice a day. Those Icelanders, man, they really know what they’re doing in that department! Below, the highlights of my soup-centric week.
The famous lobster soup at Saegreifinn
At the top of my things-I-MUST-eat-in-Iceland list was the humarsupa, or lobster soup, at Saegreifinn. The tiny restaurant/fish shack in Reykjavik’s old harbor was supposed to have some of the best lobster soup in town, so the first night we were there, my sister and I made it a point to have it. I can’t say I tried lots of other lobster soups, but I didn’t need to because this one won my vote. Sweet and velvety without being cream-heavy or goopy, it had just the right amount of fat hunks of sweet lobster meat. My only regret: not going back for more every single day. Continue reading
So much skyr!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love yogurt. I think most people feel pretty lukewarm about it, but I actually love it and eat it most days. I especially love plain flavored Greek yogurt for its thick, creamy consistency and rich, tangy flavor.
Before going to Iceland, the one thing I knew about local eating habits there was that people were serious about skyr, an Icelandic yogurt of sorts, similar to the Greek kind in its consistency, flavor and high protein content. And really, that was almost enough for me to fork over plane fare. Sure, all of the other awesome things about Iceland sealed the deal, but really, I was sold at skyr.
Skyr: non fat and high in protein, yet tastes like a complete dessert.
Once my sister and I were there, skyr really was everywhere and I, for one, thought it was great! At supermarkets, there were dozens of brands and flavors, including plain, fruity like blueberry and raspberry, or sweeter varieties like vanilla and caramel. In my six days there, I tried a bit of them all. Because I’m a big vanilla fan I really liked that one which was almost custardy, but the caramel one was really good too, in a very flan-like, almost dessert way.
Oh that all mornings could start with this much deliciousness!
At Kex, the hipstery hostel where we stayed, skyr was always a part of the morning breakfast line-up. The tart, plain flavored kind was served in small glass jars and left up to the eater to jazz up with an assortment of oats, granola, jams and dried fruits. My favorite combo was the dark, rich blueberry jam they put out (which by the way, was delicious and I would have eaten with just about anything) and the crunchy, nutty granola. I had it that way the first day we had breakfast there, and every morning we went back.
Lucky for me, places like Murray’s
and Whole Foods actually sell skyr, so an Icelandic morning dairy fix is never too far. And as a devoted yogurt lover, that makes me very