Norwegians eat fish all year round, Christmas time included! In this article, we’ve compiled the five most common types of fish found on Norwegian dinner tables during the holidays.
Although most Norwegians swear by pinnekjøtt (dried mutton ribs) or ribbe (roasted pork belly) for their Christmas dinner, many also enjoy fish during the holidays.
These fish dishes are traditional Norwegian recipes and often span back several hundred years. To find out what they are, keep on reading!
Lutefisk is possibly the most characteristic fish dish eaten in Norway, with records going back to at least the 16th century. Literally translating to “lye fish,” lutefisk is a meal composed of dried stockfish (usually cod, ling, haddock, or pollock) soaked in lye.
Preparation varies depending on where you are in the country. Boiled or baked, the most common way to serve it is with pea stew, boiled potatoes, bacon, and mustard. In Bergen, it’s common to have your lutefisk served with a side of turnip puree, while the people of Trøndelag prefer their lutefisk with syrup and brown cheese.
Another fish dish with a punchy smell, rakfisk is a traditional Norwegian meal with roots dating back to the Middle Ages. It is usually made from freshwater species such as trout and char. The strong smell comes from the fish being salted and then fermented for two to three months, sometimes even up to a year.
When ready, it’s eaten without being cooked.
Many are reserved towards the dish due to its pungent smell. Still, if you want to give rakfisk a go, popular sides include lefser (traditional soft Norwegian flatbread), potatoes, picked red onions, sour cream, pepper, and fresh thyme.
Cod is commonly eaten in Norway all year long – however, it’s especially popular during Christmas time. Apparently, due to the cold and fresh water that the cod swims in during the winter, it’s extra tasty and firm come December.
In Norway, cod is usually prepared in hot water and served with traditional sides such as carrots, potatoes, and butter, although the variations are endless.
Gravlaks directly translates to “buried salmon” and is a dish consisting of raw salmon marinated in salt, sugar, and dill. In the Middle Ages, gravlaks was made by fishermen who salted the salmon and fermented it by digging it into the sand above the high waterline, according to Meny. That certainly explains the name!
When being prepared today, gravlaks is usually placed in a mold in the fridge for 3-4 days. No digging necessary.
Herring, or “sild” in Norwegian, is a Christmas staple for many. The most common herring dishes in Norway during Christmas are tomato herring, ‘sour’ herring, and mustard herring, but the alternatives are numerous.
Although suitable for all meals, herring is especially great if you want to serve up a delicious traditional Christmas breakfast or lunch.
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