Food in Iceland
As the popularity of various kinds of food has grown, Icelandic cuisine has shifted significantly in recent decades, from mostly featuring lamb or fish in some form or another. Vegetarian diets are more difficult to follow, although there are many vegetarian restaurants in Reykjavik, and vegetarian meals are commonly accessible in other places.
Foods that are uniquely Icelandic include:
- harðfiskur, dried fish bits eaten with butter as a snack
- Skyr is a yoghurt-like cheese that can be found all across the nation in both flavoured and unflavored variants. Protein-rich and low in fat.
- hangikjöt, smoked lamb
- smoked lamb sausage
- svið, singed sheep’s head
- Slátur is made up of lifrarpylsa, a sausage produced from sheep offal, and blómör, which is identical to lifrapylsa but contains sheep blood.
Iceland is known for its whale meat, and it is one of the few locations on the planet where Minke whale may be eaten. Whaling has long been a tradition in Iceland, but it has recently become a contentious subject. However, most tourist-oriented restaurants offer whale meat, and if you’re feeling daring, some places will serve it with grated puffin if you ask.
Many Icelanders enjoy orramatur (a selection of traditional Icelandic cuisine) during the orri season (late January-early February), which typically includes hákarl (putrefied shark cubes), Sviasulta (brawn [head cheese] made from svi), Lundabaggi (Sheep’s fat), and hrtspungar (pickled ram’s testicles). Orramatur is often offered during orrablót events. If you are invited to an orrablót, do not be embarrassed to respectfully decline any of the less appealing dishes, as many Icelanders do. But don’t worry if you go hungry; many of the more “regular” meals listed above are usually always accessible as well. If you’re not sure which is which, don’t be hesitant to question the caterers.
Orláksmessa, which takes place on the 23rd of December every year, is a comparable event to orrablót. You may be invited to skötuveislur, where cured skate is served, on this day. You may respectfully decline to participate in the skating, just as you can with orrablót (other type of fish is usually served alongside it for the less adventurous). However, a word of caution: the pungent scent that comes with frying cured skate is extremely powerful and readily clings to hair and clothes. At these events, do not wear formal (expensive) clothes, particularly not clothing that you plan to wear throughout the Christmas season.
The pylsa or hot dog is typically Icelanders’ first choice of fast cuisine. Fried onions, fresh onions, ketchup, mustard, and remoulade are common accompaniments. It is inexpensive compared to other fast food mainstays, costing about 350 kr, and is available in all of Iceland’s tiny convenience stores, restaurants, video rentals, and confectionery shops. Food trucks and carts serving boiling hot lamb meat soup (kjötspa) may also be found in Reykjavik. There is also a vegetarian option, which is the same soup but without the meat.
Drinks in Iceland
Iceland’s tap water is safe to drink, and the country has some of the purest water in the world. Coffee is widely available and similar to that found in Europe. The majority of juices are imported and produced from concentrate.
Alcoholic beverages are extremely costly in comparison to the United Kingdom and the United States; for example, a half litre of Viking beer at a pub costs about 900 kr. Liquor may be obtained at licensed bars, restaurants, or Vnbin, the state monopoly (locally known as Rki: “the state”), where liquor is considerably cheaper than at bars; for example, a beer that costs 900 kr at a bar costs 350 kr at Vnbin. Local Icelandic beverages, such as Brennivn (“Black Death”), have a high alcohol level, so take it easy while you’re out.
Visitors coming by plane should be aware that there is a duty-free shop for arriving travellers where they may purchase inexpensive alcohol (at least cheap compared to Iceland). Simply follow the Icelanders to the duty-free shop. No sane Icelander will go past the duty-free shop when they arrive! Make sure you don’t go over the limit, which is 1 liter of strong alcohol and 1 liter of light wine (less than 22 percent alcohol) or 1 liter of strong alcohol and 6 liters of beer. The strong alcohol may be replaced with 1 liter of mild wine or 6 liters of beer.
In Iceland, the legal drinking age for all alcoholic drinks is 18. However, you must be 20 years old or older to purchase alcoholic drinks.