Five odd Norwegian delicacies you might think twice about trying

The Local Norway
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Five odd Norwegian delicacies you might think twice about trying
Photo: Ole Gunnar Onsøien/NTB scanpix

Nothing brings people together like a good dinner and if a traditional Norwegian meal doesn’t kill you, it might just make you a little bit happier.


After Norway came top of the World Happiness Report 2017, Norwegian consumer magazine Forbrukerliv got to wondering about who the Norwegians really are.

One thing that definitely sets the Norwegians apart is their diet, says Forbrukerliv, which has created a top five list of delicacies that it says might be one of the reasons behind Norwegian happiness.

Most of the dishes date back to age of the Vikings and will probably be considered a little bizarre to people outside Norway - you be the judge.

But if you need a happiness boost, then perhaps it is time to try five traditional (and rather strange) dishes that the people of the world’s happiest country enjoy.

1. Lutefisk

According to an old tale, half of the Norwegians who immigrated to America left Norway in hope of escaping the Lutefisk, the other half left to share the recipe.

Lutefisk is a dried cod that has been soaked in a lye solution for several days in order to rehydrate the fish, which is left with a very distinct odour. 

After soaking, the cod is rinsed and afterwards it is baked or boiled and then served with salt, pepper and butter. In many homes, the Lutefisk is the Norwegian equivalent of a Christmas Turkey – only with a slightly different aroma.

2. Syltelabb

Syltelabb is a traditional Norwegian dish and has been considered a delicacy since the first half of the 1900s. Back then the dish was typically served on Sundays and at Christmas time. Today, the delicacy is mainly eaten around Christmas.

The dish consists of boiled, salted and cured pig’s trotter and is traditionally served with beet-root, mustard and fresh bread. Syltelabb is very salty and is therefore often served with at Christmas ale or a strong spirit called aquavit to tone down the saltiness (or the taste).

3. Smalahove

Smalahove is another traditional Norwegian dish that is usually eaten around Christmas and consists of… a sheep’s head.

The first step in preparing the dish is to remove the brain of the sheep and then torch the fleece and skin. Afterwards, the head is salted and dried and then boiled for 3 hours. After boiling, the head is ready to be served with mashed potatoes and turnips.

In some regions, the brain is left inside the skull while being prepared. After cooking, the brain is then scooped out and eaten with a spoon…

The origins of this, to some, rather bizarre dish are still largely unknown. However, in earlier days the wealthier part of the Norwegian population enjoyed the fine parts of the sheep, while the not so rich were left with the not so fine pieces of meat – including the head.

In order to make it more edible, the head was prepared in various ways with whatever was available and somewhere along the way it turned into Smalahove as we know it today.

Today, Smalahove is no longer considered a poor man’s dish, but rather a delicacy.

4. Værballer

Ram’s testicles… Do you prefer them boiled or fried? Værballer is yet another dish that might make you think twice about tasting local specialities in Norway.

Even though it is a traditional Norwegian dish that goes back many years, Værballer is today mainly enjoyed only by the most dedicated food enthusiasts or as an aperitif to whet the appetite…

5. Elgtunge

In its traditional form, Norwegian cuisine is largely based on ingredients readily available in nature, which includes elk.

Throughout history, elk has been considered a great delicacy and a highly appreciated food source in Norway. The Norwegians love to eat elk and all parts of it – almost.

A very treasured part of the elk is the tongue, which Norwegians particularly like fried or boiled and with a bit of blueberry or parsley sauce. Another tasty part is the moose heart, which is considered a true delicacy when it has been smoked.

This list has been republished with the permission of The original infographic can be found here.


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