Food Culture and Tradition

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Glossary of Foods and Food Terms in Iceland


Astarbollur: Christmas specialty of deep-fried doughnuts leavened with baking powder and rich with currants.

Brennivin: Icelandic brandy drunk icy cold and straight.

Blodmor: formerly a staple in the Icelandic diet, today a traditional favorite. It is made from salted, diluted sheep’s blood thickened with barley or rye flour and boiled in intestine casings. To preserve the boiled sausage, they are stored in sour whey.

Fiskibollur: Icelandic fried fish cakes made by combining finely minced fish with chopped onions and separated eggs. The flattened cakes are fried till golden then gently steamed by adding a little broth.

Flatbrau: Icelandic griddle cakes made from whole rye or wholewheat flour blended with boiling water to make a dough. Served with sugar or preserves of rhubarb or berries.

Hakarl: cured shark’s meat prepared by cutting the fish meat into strips and storing in clean gravel beds for several weeks. Following this, the strips of fish are washed then air-dried in special sheds. Although strongly pungent, the flavor is much prized and is enjoyed with Brennivin.

Hangikjot: the Christmas specialty of smoked cured lamb or mutton. Often enjoyed throughout the year, thinly sliced and sometimes served with fried eggs.

Harkfiskur: fish that is wind-dried till brittle. It is eaten uncooked but pounded till soft and crumbly. The torn strips of fish are butter-dipped to eat.

Kaupfelagi: the name for Icelandic cooperative supermarkets, offering reasonable food prices – a balm to the tourist after the exorbitant cost of restaurant meals.

Koefa: simmered meat (usually lamb, occasionally veal) ground then packed into a loaf mold with some of the broth. The jelled chilled loaf is sliced to serve.

Kringlur: pretzel-shaped yeast dough flavored with cinnamon and caraway seeds.

Lifrapilsa: a baked liver pate or boiled liver sausage made from sheep’s liver, oats, flour, and milk.

Mola Kaffi: strong coffee served with loaf (cube) sugar.

Mysostur: a brown smooth-spreading cheese.

Ponnukokur: simple light pancakes served cold as a dessert or with coffee. They are usually served in rolls, sprinkled with brown sugar.

Rullu Pylsa: pickled rolled lamb, served cold as a sliced meat with buttered wheat or rye bread.

Rusks: sweet. plain yeast dough in buns or slices that have been oven toasted till crisp and dried.

Skyr: a curd dish somewhere between yogurt and cottage cheese in flavor, prepared by fermenting pasteurized skim milk with renin. It is served with sugar or with sugar cream. Icelandic staple and favorite dessert and snack available everywhere.

Steiktir Partar: thin wafer-like pastries filled with sweetened whipped cream.

Svid: general name for singed sheep’s or lamb’s heads. These may be smoked or boiled or simply boiled and served, often as a Sunday specialty. The heads may also be simmered in a stock, the meat removed and jelled in the stock aspic to be chilled and served sliced as head cheeses.

Svidasutla: head cheese.

Vinarterta: called “Viennese torte,” an Icelandic specialty made with many layers of cookie-like pastry filled with cardamom or cinnamon-flavored pureed prunes.

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