Eating traditional cuisine in Norway: What to expect
Visitors often wonder what kind of food they should expect to find on their trip. Here's an overview of the meals you might have when traveling to Norway:
Fish makes up much of Norwegian cuisine. This probably comes as no surprise - after all, you're never far from the ocean in the Land of the Midnight Sun. If you're a fan of fish, you're certain to find something delicious during your Norwegian cruise - in fact, many of Hurtigruten's cruises have onboard fishing demonstrations. These give you the chance to get a first-hand look at how the Norwegian fishing industry works.
The great thing about having fish in Norway is that it's guaranteed to be fresh. Many land-locked regions have only tried fish that's been frozen and transported many miles before being cooked. Your proximity to both fresh and seawater means that any fish you eat in Norway will be a cut above the rest.
Adventurous carnivores will leap at the chance to try reindeer and elk, both of which are fairly easy to find in Norway. In fact, reindeer is among the dishes regularly referenced as one of Norway's local delicacies.
Lamb is also frequently included in Norwegian cuisine. Fårikal, a dish made up of boiled mutton and cabbage served with boiled potatoes, is very popular in the country and has been voted the national dish twice. Most of the food you'll find will be simply prepared and very lightly seasoned, since the culinary standard in Norway is to rely on the flavor of the foods themselves. Still, this causes many visitors to think Norwegian food is bland.
Vegetarian and vegan food
If you don't eat meat or fish, you're likely to have limited options if you head outside the biggest cities in Norway, where you'll probably need to supplement your diet with food from local supermarkets. However, both vegetarian and vegan food is increasing in popularity. If you're traveling with Hurtigruten, for example, you will find an extensive vegan menu on board.
Photo: Jens Haugen, Jimmy Linus/Tinagent, Raymond Fishman - Gästefoto and Ørjan Bertelsen
Meals – indulge in a Norwegian breakfast
Norwegian breakfasts tend to revolve around sea, with meals including smoked salmon, fish in various sauces and marinades (such as sardines in mustard sauce or tomato sauce, or pickled herring), smoked whitefish served with hard-boiled eggs or carviar (kaviar in Norwegian). Dig in to lefse, which is the soft, Norwegian flatbread made of flour and milk or cream. The bread is often paired with Jarlsberg cheese, butter, fruit jam or any of the tasty smoked fishes Norway is famous for.
Lunch is arguably the best time to try local restaurants and cafes, as they tend to have specials during the middle of the day. Norwegian cuisine can be very expensive, but eating out during lunchtime can let you explore the meal options without going over budget. Come midday, make a sandwich of brown goat's cheese (geitost) or slices of salmon on lefse.
Every child and most adults tuck their lunch fare into a bag ("matpakke," which literally means packed food) before going to school or work. Open-faced sandwiches are a tradition in Scandinavian nations, and popular options in Norway are made with a buttered slice of toast, typically whole-grain rye, topped with meatballs, herring, fish filets or liver pate. Surprisingly, hot dog lunches are also a crowd favorite - a typical Norwegian eats 100 a year, almost one every three days.
For dinner, you can expect the aforementioned fish and red-meat meals. If you're eating out, your best bet for your budget may be visiting an all-you-can-eat buffet. These types of restaurants are fairly common throughout the country, and will give you the chance to try many different foods at once.
When in Norway, you should not miss the opportunity of trying the amazing king crabs. The further north you go, the cheaper they are. But they're always just as tasty. Reindeer is another delicacy most visitors should give a shot.
Those on cruises in Norway won't want to miss dessert. Indulge in a sweet milk dish called gomme or rømmegrøt, which is a sour cream porridge. Follow that with layer cake stuffed with whipped cream and jam and then pick between the pyramid of almond macaroon rings or iron-shaped cookies rolled into cones in classic Norwegian fashion.
The average Norwegian consumes 40 gallons (160 quarts) of milk annually. If voyagers swing by a market, chances are they'll find milk cartons from the two dairy companies, Tine melk and Q melk.
For other beverages, opt for the 4.5 percent Norwegian beer or "blande," a cheap drink made from water and soured whey. Aquavit, or akvavit, is Norway's famous liquor export, made from potatoes flavored with caraway. Looking for something fancy? The Vinmonopolet (The Wine Monopoly) is the country's special shops for imported wine and liquor.
On Hurtigruten voyages, your taste buds will be treated to "Norway's Coastal Kitchen," which is Hurtigruten's onboard dining that provides guests with the country's fresh, local ingredients from more than a hundred local suppliers along the coast.