Food cuisine in Norway - what not to miss!

Written by: StudentBergen

Photo:

The quickest way to the heart of a culture is through the stomach!

Norwegian cuisine originally developed from using raw ingredients available around in Norway—in the mountains, wilderness and coast—and heavily features potatoes, game and seafood, reflecting the local fauna and agriculture. Many of the traditional foods are heavily salted, smoked or pickled: This was largely due to the need of preserving foods throughout the long winters and to transport food items across the long and mountainous country.

Over the years, the cuisine has become increasingly globalized and foods such as sushi, pizza and pasta are often dished out on the Norwegian dinner table. A popular term coined in recent times is Taco-Friday, a Norwegian dinner concept especially popular among students. The most renowned pizza brand Grandiosa is also consumed on such regular basis that it has earned its spot in what we consider Norwegian cuisine.

Norwegians have 3-4 meals a day, cold breakfast (“frokost”), cold lunch (“lunsj”) usually in form of a packed meal called “matpakke” and warm dinner (“middag”) at 4-6 pm. Some also eat cold supper (“kveldsmat”) or late dinner at 6-8 pm, although the latter is not the standard. If you want experience the Norwegian food culture and learn to eat like a local, here are some foods you should try while in Norway:

 

1.    Bread

Bread is a significant part of the Norwegian diet, and the more nutritious the kind, the more popular. Simple and reserved, breakfast and lunch often consists of an open sandwich consisting of a slice of “loff” (white loaf) or “grovbrød” (coarse, whole-wheat bread) topped with butter and some kind of topping. ”Knekkebrød” (crispbread) is eaten as an alternative to bread. Common toppings include jams, white cheese with paprika or cucumber, nougat, leverpostei (liver pâté) with sliced beets, tubed caviar, cooked and cured ham, egg with mayonnaise, and brunost (brown cheese), which is caramelized whey cheese and one of Norway’s most iconic foodstuffs—a must-try!

 

2. Fish

With its long coastline, it comes as no surprise that fish is a main staple in the Norwegian kitchen. Being one of the country’s main exports, salmon enjoys great popularity among both tourists and locals and many traditional salmon dishes exist such as smoked salmon, gravlax and rakfisk. While halibut is usually reserved for fine dining, cod is commonly used in many fish dishes such as traditional fish cakes and fish soup, with the Bergen fish soup being a famous variant. During Christmas, pickled herring and lutefisk are often served. For a more casual food experience, canned mackerel and sardines in oil or tomato sauce can be bought for an inexpensive price in most supermarkets. If you’re more of a snacks person, you can try salted and dried cod (“klippfisk”) or dried stockfish, Norway's longest sustained export commodity.

  

3. “Husmannskost” - Norwegian home-cooking

Husmannskost is the Norwegian term for simple home-cooked dishes for the common man back in the old days. It usually consists of root vegetables or grains combined with meat. Examples of husmannskost dishes are raspeballer (potato dumplings) with salted boiled pork, lapskaus (stew of meat and potatoes) served with flatbrød (unleavened bread), kjøttkaker (meat cakes) served with potatoes, and fårikål (lamb mutton). The latter is considered to be Norway’s national dish. During the Christmas season, pork ribs, pinnekjøtt and cured meat such as fenalår, with potatoes are traditionally served.  Rice porridge with sugar, cinnamon and butter used to be an expensive dish back when rice was an imported luxury good and was served only during Christmas (hence it is often known as “julegrøt” Christmas porridge and still is widely consumed during Christmas). Over time it has lost its luxury symbol and has now become an ordinary dish enjoyed regularly among locals.

 

4. Exotic foods

Even small countries has its unusual dishes, Norway being no exception, having many of them centered around animal heads and feet. The more famous delicacies include cod tongues, beef tongues, lungemos (pated lung), sylte (head cheese), syltelabb (boiled and salt-cured pig’s trotter), whale beef, blood pudding, gamalost (old cheese), finnbiff (reindeer meat), reindeer sausages, smalaføtter (lamb’s feet) and perhaps the most famous: Smålahove (lamb’s head). These dishes are not normally served or consumed on everyday occasion, however, and can mostly be found in fine dining restaurants and tourist food markets during specific seasons.

 

5. Pastries and desserts

Norwegian traditional cuisine is rich in pastries and desserts, and common flavours enjoyed are cinnamon, saffron and cardamom. Some popular pastries include wienerbrød (Danish pastry), lussekatter (saffron bun), skolebrød (school bun), skillingsboller (Norwegian cinnamon roll), and lefser (flatbread) with brown sugar and butter or brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Soft, heart-shaped waffles occupies a soft spot in Norwegians’ hearts and are often served with strawberry or raspberry jam, gomme, sour cream, whipped cream, brown cheese or sugar on top. Bløtecake (cream cake) decorated with berries is also a common favorite. Other traditional desserts include kransekake (wreath cake), svele, krumkake (curved cake), multekrem (whipped cream with cloudberries) and tilslørte bondepiker (veiled peasant girls).

 

6. Sweets and snacks

While not as promoted as the country’s more traditional dishes, Norwegian snacks have established a reputation on their own for their high standard of quality. Freia melkesjokolade is probably the most sold milk chocolate in Norway and a popular souvenir for tourists. Today, it exists in many different flavors and comes in different sizes, including a 24 g packaging called eventyrsjokoade (story chocolate), which has a fairytale written on the wrapping. Another known chocolate from the same brand is Kvikk lunsj (Quick Lunch), a chocolate bar similar to the American Kit Kat that has become the standard hike snack among Norwegians alongside oranges and a pack of mixed nuts. Another common tradition in Norway is the concept of lørdagsgodt (Saturday’s sweets), where locals, particularly kids, eat sweets on Saturdays. If you want to fill your candy bag for the weekend, then some confectionaries to take look at (or taste) are salted licorice, Smash! (salted corn cores covered by milk chocolate), smørbukk (caramel), bamsemums (chocolate-marshmallow candy) and non-stop (Norway’s version of M&Ms).

 

7. Drinks

Surrounded by clean, drinkable and fresh water, Norway can boast about its tap water being an experience in itself not to be missed. For those who prefer bottled drinks, there exists a variety of local bottled water and soda drinks such as Farris, Norway’s oldest and best-selling sparkling mineral water, Solo, Villa, Mozell, Urge and julebrus (Christmas soda), which is sold during Christmas season. Other popular drinks around Christmas are gløgg (mulled wine) and juleøl (Christmas beer). Beer, cider and wine are commonly enjoyed in Norway and there are many local variants, the most notable kind being akvavit (aquavit). Non-alcoholic drinks that are more unique to Norway includes vørteøl (wart beer) and snarøl (quick beer). Otherwise, Norwegians tend to be very fond of tea, coffee and hot chocolate.

 

Has the list awoken your appetite for Norwegian food and drinking culture? Bergen hosts a food- and beer festival (Mat- og øl festival) at the end of August and beginning of September every year. Here you can try out different varieties in both local food cuisine and beer brands.

You can read more about where to go out to eat and drink in Bergen on a student budget here, and an international student’s tips and thoughts about food and grocery in Bergen here.


We wish you many good meals during your stay in Norway, and as we would say in Norwegian: “Velbekommen!”  

About Us

  • Student Bergen is an independent homepage for everything associated with student life in Bergen. All student organisations in Bergen are welcome to publish information about themselves and their activities for free on these pages.
  • These pages are administered by Study Bergen.

Contact

Follow us