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1. Brunost: Norway
You either love it or you hate it. No, it’s not Marmite, it’s Brunost. Norway’s distinctive brown cheese. Looks like laminate flooring, in both colour and texture, but it melts in your mouth and due to its subtle caramel flavour, tastes even better with signature Scandinavian jam; lingonberry jam.
Which brings us nicely to…
2. Lingonberry jam: Scandinavia
A staple food across Scandinavia, Lingonberry jam is added to almost everything. Particularly plentiful in Sweden’s bountiful forests, the Swedes love to pile the berry compote on anything from toast to black pudding. A distant cousin of the cranberry but smaller and juicier, it complements both sweet and savoury flavours.
3. Cinnamon buns: Sweden
It’s no secret that the Swedish also love their cinnamon – if you like the taste of Christmas, you’ll find it in everything from cookies to pies and even meatballs. But the all-time national favourite has got to be the cinnamon bun, with its soft spiced dough and glistening sugar glaze. So good, the Swedes eat (on average) 316 cinnamon buns every year…each!! According to the Swedish Board of Agriculture and Statistics Sweden – who have done very important research on the matter – that’s 148,766,006kg of bun - the equivalent weight of 350,000 moose. We’ll take the buns, please.
4. Cured fish: All over
The Norwegian Sea is replete with fish, particularly Herring, while the icy cold Baltic Sea serves a medley of flavoursome seafood. Hence why the Nordic diet is rich in fish. You’ll find a tempting selection of cod, haddock, monkfish, herring, skate and lobster, much of which is cured or smoked and served raw. Look out for fresh Gravlax which is salmon cured with dill and served as simply as that. If you prefer your fish hot, tuck into Finland’s famed Lohikeitto (salmon soup) which offers a hearty combination of salmon, leek and potato.
5. Surströmming: Sweden
Warning: For brave foodies only.
If you like to try anything at least once, then Surströmming is a Swedish dish to tick off your bucket list. Surströmming means ‘sour herring’. So that should give you some indication as to what what you’re letting yourself in for. Simply put, Surströmming is tinned rotten herring; fermented with just enough salt to prevent it from turning putrid completely. Traditionally the Swedes like to keep a vintage tin for at least one year, before opening it (outdoors is a must) and devouring the semi-rotten contents. Apparently it smells like death but tastes like heaven. We’ll let you decide.
6. Aquavit: Norway
They’re sneaky the Norwegians – with a name like ‘Aquavit’ you’d expect this national beverage to be some sort of detoxifying water high in vitamins. Quite the opposite, it’s actually Norway’s best-known alcoholic spirit. Made from potatoes and flavoured with caraway, anise, dill, fennel and coriander, it'll put a heat in your heart and hairs on your chest.
7. Skyr: Iceland
Skyr is everywhere in Iceland, they eat it all day long: for breakfast, as a snack, a quick drink and even as a condiment. But what exactly is Skyr? Well, essentially it’s yoghurt, but the way in which it’s cultivated means it has 4-times more protein than regular yoghurt. Gym enthusiasts listen up. And look out for "drykkur" – its drink guise and also “skyr-nnaise”, the dipping sauce.
8. Leipäjuusto (bread cheese) Finland
The Americans describe this Finnish cheese quite literally: Finnish squeaky cheese. But they're also quite accurate. Leipäjuusto means ‘bread cheese’ and can be served hot or cold but more commonly hot. Essentially, it's warm baked cheese curd with a brown exterior and a gooey interior that squeaks when bitten. We recommend you try it as a dessert accompanied with a glass of cold milk and lashings of jam - there's that lingonberry again.
9. Nakkikastike: Finland
A favourite amongst the Finnish kids, Nakkikastike is simmering frankfurter, sliced and served in a rich tomato sauce. It's basically your standard hot dog without the bun. And it tastes amazing. A firm family favourite, the sausage is fried and tossed through a thick onion sauce before the tomato paste, carrot and broth is added. Usually served with boiled potatoes, this one’s enjoyed by children and adults alike.
10. Lundi: Iceland
Considered a delicacy in Iceland, Lundi AKA Puffin isn’t eaten as readily as it once was, but it’s a culinary experience nevertheless. Boiled in milk or more commonly, smoked, it can sometimes taste a little like pastrami. Eat at your own risk – outside of Iceland, devouring puffin isn’t always met with praise.
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