What To Eat In Iceland

There's so much more to the cuisine than fermented shark

You may have heard about fermented shark, a famously disliked delicacy in Iceland. But don't let that trick you into thinking the rest of Icelandic cuisine is also unappetizing: Here are five foods you have to taste on a trip to the volcanic island, from Reykjavík all the way to the Westfjords. 

① Icelandic Lobster (Langoustine)

Don't be disappointed when you order lobster in Iceland and it arrives looking like a crawfish. It's really a langoustine, and its meat tastes sweet, light and buttery all at the same time. Try it as a salad with tomato confit and Jerusalem artichoke purée at Tryggvaskáli or panfried with garlic and dill mayonnaise at Hotel Rangá. But the absolute best way to try Icelandic lobster is in the form of humarsúpa, which you'll find at most Icelandic restaurants. Cooked tails are usually placed in a bowl before a creamy bisque is poured over them. It's the perfect ending to a day exploring ice caves.

② Icelandic Hot Dogs

There's an antidote to Iceland's notoriously expensive restaurant prices. Icelandic hot dogs, or pylsur, are made from a mix of pork, lamb and beef, with a thinner, longer shape and a snappier bite than their American counterparts. They come topped with a sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep, as well as onions that are both chopped raw and fried until crispy. Baejarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavík is the most famous vendor in the country, thanks to visits from famous people like Bill Clinton and Charlie Sheen. 

③ Skyr

Icelanders have been eating this cultured dairy product for more than a thousand years. It's technically a cheese—Icelanders will tell you again and again that skyr isn't yogurt. They eat it with berries as dessert and also use it in desserts like crème brûlée and cheesecake. There's even a skyr smoothie available at the swim-up bar at the famous Blue Lagoon.

④ Harðfiskur

This dried fish product translates literally to "hard fish" in Icelandic and is another one of the county's oldest foods. This foodstuff is usually made from either haddock, cod, whiting or even halibut, and is traditionally served with bread and butter before a meal. Trendy Reykjavík restaurant Matur og Drykkur serves it with whey butter and pickled dulse (a type of seaweed) as part of its à la carte or five-course Icelandic tasting menu.

⑤ Lamb

After repeatedly telling you skyr is not yogurt, Icelanders will also inform you that they have the best lamb in the world (they're not wrong). Their sheep roam free during the warmer months, feeding off wild grasses, herbs and wildflowers that grow particularly rich from the long days of sunlight during the summer. These conditions yield extraordinarily tender meat, succulent fat and just a subtle gamey flavor. The adventurous can spring for hangikjöt, lamb smoked over lamb dung (although most processors don't use this ingredient anymore), but you'll also find the meat marinated in moss and seaweed or just served as a simple filet. And don't hesitate to order the Icelandic version of surf and turf, made with lamb and langoustine—it's truly the best of both worlds.

Meredith Bethune is a food and travel writer based in Belgium. See how many different beers she can possibly try while living abroad on Instagram at @meredithbethune.