Iceland is such a beautiful country full of amazing scenic wonders, but the one thing that really struck me during my visit was that Icelandic cuisine sure is a bit strange! Whether it is served up as street food or part of a more fulsome meal, you can find weird and wacky things to eat here, from fermented shark to sour ram’s testicles!
Hangikjot is the Icelandic term for smoked meat, and you can find this delicacy on every street corner in some shape or form. The smoked meat usually is either lamb, mutton, or horse, and is usually boiled and served either hot or cold in slices. It takes its name from the old tradition of smoking food in order to preserve it by hanging it from the rafters of a smoking shed.
Fermented Shark (otherwise known as Hakarl) is the national dish of Iceland and consists of a Greenland shark or other sleeper shark which has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months. Kæstur hákarl has a strong ammonia-rich smell and fishy taste, which often puts foreigners off from eating it. For Icelandic residents, however, it is readily available in grocery stores and eaten throughout the year.
Puffin (Landi) is another form of meat that the carnivorous Icelandic people enjoy to eat. While not regularly served up as street food (though may be nice in a wrap), puffin meat can both be boiled in milk sauce or smoked and can be found in restaurants up and down the country.
Hardfiskur is another popular street food from Iceland. It is simply dried fish, usually cod or haddock, and is extremely high in protein. It comparable to Biltong from South Africa. Icelanders eat tonnes of Hardfiskur every year with butter on top, as the texture of the fish is very dry and the butter makes it softer. You need to chew each bite very thoroughly before swallowing it!
Minke Whale is consumed by the bucket load in Iceland, but it has never been considered endangered. Whale meat can both be eaten raw or cooked. Whale meat is red meat, similar to a beef steak, but softer and leaner – and often described as a cross between beef and tuna! You can find whale pieces as street food in the form of sushi, and even whale kebabs!
Laufabrot is a traditional kind of Icelandic bread originating from the northern but now eaten throughout the country. It is a round, very thin flat cakes with a diameter of about 6 inches, decorated with leaf-like, geometric patterns and fried briefly in hot fat or oil. Laufabrauð can be bought in bakeries or made at home, but for tourists to Iceland, it is best served fresh from the street vendors!
Fiskisupa, when fresh off the stove, can be a godsend during those sub-zero Icelandic winters summers. This fish soup is most commonly cream-based and tastes delicious when sprinkled with small herbs and vegetables. You just have to enjoy Fiskisupa with some Laufabrot!
Gellur is another disgusting – yet quite popular – street food from Iceland, and is basically the muscle tendons from behind Cod tongues. They are fleshy, white, and very, very slimy. As street food, you can find Gellur in fishmongers used to have them, although they are not common. Gellur reminds me of Jellied Eels from British street food.
Skyr is an Icelandic cultured dairy product with the consistency of strained yogurt but has a much milder flavour. It is technically classified as cheese, although widely regarded as yogurt. Skyr has a slightly sour dairy flavour, with a hint of residual sweetness. It is traditionally served cold with milk and a topping of sugar.
Pylsur Ein med ollu Hotdog is my wildcard for the best street food in Iceland. It comes from a hotdog stand in Reykjavik (Baejarins Beztu) and is very famous as even ex-president Bill Clinton bought a snack here a few years ago during a visit to the city. If you want to go the whole hog and order a “traditional Icelandic hotdog” then you need to ask for “everything”: fried and raw onions, ketchup, sweet mustard, and whatever else on offer. Baejarins Beztu is very famous and popular so expect to wait in line for your dog. If you aren’t visiting Reykjavik and are stuck in other parts of the country, well…you’ll have to make do with sheep’s testicles and fermented shark!