Even though the weather in Norway at this time of the year (November) is wet and dreary, the food more than makes up for it. Here are my 12 picks during my recent work trip there.
1. Reindeer meat
Thought I'd begin with this first and quickly get it out of the way. Yes I ate Sven! I had to do it. You see, I must have watched the movie Frozen over a hundred times with my three-year-old daughter. It's painful after the 10th time. Small payback, but I just wanted to see my little girl's face when I told her I ate Sven. So what does reindeer taste like? It's very much like beef! I wouldn't have known the difference if not for the menu.
It's a cold country after all, so expect lots of salted and dried meats like this lamb's ribs. Doesn't look very appetising at first glance I admit...but it tastes much better than it looks.
3. Lamb sausage
Based on wild lamb raised on the west coast of Norway.
4. Norwegian Salmon
You have to put the "Norwegian" in front of the salmon to distinguish it from other salmon around the world. It's of the highest quality and I'm told it's because fish grow more slowly in cold water and this makes their flesh more flavourful than fish in warmer waters. And Norway has a long coastline with cold, clean water. How long is Norway? Flip the country around and you'll reach Rome, Italy. Buy it at the airport Duty Free shops.
Unsalted fish dried by the sun and wind on wooden racks. It's usually cod or something that belongs in the same white fish family. It takes about six months to dry properly and it's super healthy because while 80 per cent of the water in the fish disappears, it retains all its nutrients. For a fish that takes so long to dry, it's anything but dry tasting.
A traditional dish of Nordic countries, it is dried white cod fish cooked in lye (sodium hydroxide, the stuff that makes soda drinks bubbly). I guess like most traditional food everywhere else, it is an acquired taste - you either like it or you don't.. but try it with a squeeze of lemon. I liked it.
Seafood in Norway would not be complete if you did not try its shrimp. As was said in the movie Forrest Gump, you can have shrimp sandwich, shrimp cocktail, shrimp stew... pretty much shrimp anything. Me? I opted for a shrimp salad...simple but delicious. Again, it's the freshness of the seafood that immediately stands out and shrimp is no different.
It's caviar out of a toothpaste like tube, perfect if you're on a space mission to Mars. But don't let its packaging fool you as it's surprisingly addictive. Made of cod roe, it has a rich taste and is used traditionally as a sandwich topping. You can also enjoy it on bread, cold sausages or sliced boiled egg. For me, I prefer to eat it on its own. Other foods in a tube include mayonnaise, bacon and ham.
Something unusual I thought...brown cheese. It is sweet, flavoured with caramel. Cut it into thin wafer slices and eat it with bread or crackers. Or like me, I thought it was best eaten on its own.
A traditional soft Norwegian flatbread made with leftover potatoes and flour. Some current variations of lefse are made out of flour, and milk or cream.
Norway's national drink: It is a potato-based spirit flavoured with herbs. It typically contains 40 per cent alcohol, and is always a good way to keep warm in a cold country.
12. Norwegian Beer
Drink like a Viking! Beer has a long history in Norway, going as far back as 1,000 years. There's a variety of Norwegian brands available so you can order a beer to suit any of the foods I've described above. And the bubbly chap in the picture is my Norwegian twin.
How do you say "cheers" in Norwegian? Skal!