10 things we love about Icelandic cuisine
While rotten shark has made a name for itself, Icelandic cuisine is really all about fresh seafood and hearty stews. Chef Aggi Sverrisson shares his favourite food that’s not to be missed on the Nordic island
Want to learn more about Icelandic cuisine? Looking for Icelandic dishes to try? Read Aggi's guide below, plus his recipe for Kleinur Icelandic doughnuts, then check out our round-ups of the 10 things we love about Swedish food and Hungarian cuisine.
Born in Iceland, Aggi Sverrisson’s cooking career began at the age of 18, leading him to England where he joined Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and was promoted to head chef in 2005. He launched his first independent venture in 2007, becoming chef patron of London’s renowned Texture restaurant and champagne bar. Honoured with a Michelin star in 2010, Texture retained its coveted award for 10 years. In 2020, Aggi returned to Iceland, taking the executive chef position at Moss restaurant, where he integrates Asian flavours as he explores Iceland’s culinary frontiers. bluelagoon.com
These twisted doughnuts are an extremely traditional Icelandic pastry – as a child you grow up seeing your grandmother make these, and you would be asked to make them at the weekend. Check out Aggi's Kleinur Icelandic doughnuts recipe here.
A traditional Icelandic fish stew made out of left-over cooked cod, mashed potatoes, béchamel, onions and a lot of black pepper. Some recipes use a pinch of curry powder and others gratin it with hollandaise. I recommend trying it at 3 Frakkar, which is a very traditional Icelandic restaurant located in downtown Reykjavík (3frakkar.is).
3. Wild salmon
This is probably my favourite fish. I love salmon fishing during the summer but unfortunately we are not allowed to catch and keep many of them these days. It is difficult to describe but Icelandic wild salmon is firm-fleshed and less oily than its farmed counterpart. I think it tastes like heaven.
This meat soup is usually made from shoulder of lamb. You can opt for other cheap cuts but you want them to be fatty, and if they are on the bone that’s even better. The meat is diced with root vegetables such as carrot, swede and potato, flavoured with bay leaves and cooked slowly on the stove for five to six hours.
5. Rotten shark
I grew up watching my grandparents eat rotten shark but I never liked it that much. The shark meat is cut into pieces and fermented in cold storage rooms for about six to eight weeks. The shark is split into two categories: glerhákarl (glass shark) from thinner pieces, and skyrhákarl from the fillets – so called due to its milky white colour. The fermentation brings out the flavour and makes it non-toxic. The meat is then hung to dry for about six months and it smells terribly. It’s a love/hate dish.
The best way to eat Icelandic scallops is to take a fishing boat from Stykkishólmur into Breiðafjörður with a diver called Simbi Hjalmarsson. He dives for the scallops and I can eat them within a couple of minutes of them being out of the sea. I serve them at Moss.
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Söl or dulse (seaweed) is an incredible product. As a child, I grew up eating söl instead of crisps. You can use it for everything – in desserts, as a flavour for butter, it’s amazing with fish and we also cook it with wild lamb.
Skyr is now widely available outside Iceland. It’s one of the healthiest dairy products you can find and traditionally has 0.01% fat, very high protein and no added sugar. This is what you eat for breakfast, lunch or between meals with fresh fruit such as freshly picked blueberries or crowberries.
9. Sea urchin
An Icelandic delicacy which we Icelanders have just started to make more use of. The quality is incredible due to the temperature of the sea, which makes the texture sweeter and firmer than those fished elsewhere.
10. Íslenskt lambakjöt
Slow-roasted saddle of lamb is a favourite on Sundays. This is our version of a Sunday roast. It usually stays in the oven from the morning until 6pm and is served with a mushroom sauce like a thick gravy. We have tinned green beans and pickled red cabbage with it.