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We Found Something Really Fishy in the Norwegian Arctic Circle

Where: Lofoton, Norway
January 16, 2014 at 5:35 PM | by | ()

Let's pick up where we left off yesterday. Cod is the fish to be had in Norway, and locals eat it in numerous ways, from dried chips to fresh-caught fillets. The most interesting of the variations dates back to the Viking Age, when sailors would dry out the whole fish on giant racks and rehydrate it months, sometimes years later.

The Viking Age is a mystery to those in the United States, but such is the past of the Scandinavian countries, specifically Norway and Sweden. As seafaring people, the Vikings were just like us: They wanted, and needed, to travel light.

We couldn't believe it until we had it in our hands, the dried fish literally as light as a feather, hollow to the point that you doubted there was any meat on it in the first place. It looked and felt far from edible, but this fish served as the food source for the great Viking ships as they took to the seas. Norway's climate in the spring is what makes it possible, the salty location by the sea allowing the fish to dry out over the course of seven days through a natural curing process without spoiling.

First, the fresh-caught fish is filleted and cleaned. Fishermen remove the roe and the tongue -- which will be sold separately -- and then hang the fish on the giant racks you see the photos (in the winter, they use smaller indoor racks). After about a week, the fish is ready to either be processed and stored or packaged and shipped. Africa, Italy, and Portugal are some of the top buyers of the Norwegian dried cod.

From there, the fish can be pounded to make chips, or it can be stowed for -- get this -- 3 or 4 years. This was an absolute dream for the Vikings, the cod making for extremely light yet nutritious cargo, perfect for feeding a massive group of people traveling aboard a small ship. The fish is consumed dry in the case of the "fish chips," but most of the time it is rehydrated and served as fillets. The fish must be soaked in a pot of water for about a week for it to return to its original size.

The fact that you can throw a year-old dried fish into a pot of water and have it come out nearly "fresh" is pretty amazing, albeit the entire process does require a bit of patience. And this tradition still continues today. The racks you see in the photos are from the harbor of Lofoton, a fishing village in the Arctic of Norway. Who's hungry?

[Photos: Terje Rakke/nordnorge.com]

Archived Comments:

1000 ways to cook cod in Portugal

Some say it is true... there are 1000 ways to cook cod in Portugal... I think it is very likely the largest importer (per capita) of cod from Norway. You must go and taste it yourself! I'd recommend using WiserGo.cm to connect with local travel experts who can craft unique travel experiences that match your likes, budget, and most importantly: taste. They know all those "hole-in-the-wall" places where you get the tastier and more typical food.