Norwegian Language Blog

Traditional Norwegian Cuisine- part 1 Posted by on Feb 12, 2009 in Uncategorized

Tradisjonell norsk mat.  Bland and fairly simple, but delicious.  Until the last half of the 20th century, Norway was a very poor country.  Its people had to make do with what they had-namely meat, fish, and potatoes.  Potatoes would actually be the main dish of a meal, with meat or fish and sauce added as  condiments.  Of course, as the Norwegian population has become more diverse with inhabitants from different ethnic backgrounds over the last few decades, the food selection has become much more varied.  Pizza, sushi, and kabobs are some of the  hot items that street vendors and restaurants in Norway’s bigger cities offer.  However, even with the enormous influx of new culinary items, Norwegians still continue to eat quite a lot of traditional meals.

In some ways, traditional Norwegian dishes resemble the bland dishes of the midwest (where I live…).  On second thought, since we got them from northern Europe, so I should say that our traditional dishes resemble traditional dishes of Scandinavias.  There are certainly differences in the two cuisines, the main difference being the quantity of fish consumed in both regions.  While much of the midwest (especially Wisconsin and Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes) is home to a great deal of water, it is freshwater and thus freezes in the winter.  And although icefishing is a popular winter sport, midwesterners eat far less fish than Norwegians do.  All year round fresh fish is abundant in Norway and the people take advantage of it.  The large amount of fish consumed is definitely one reason why Norwegians are typically healthier than people who don’t eat quite as much fish (Americans in general eat very little fish compared to the rest of the world).

Another distinguishing characteristic of traditional Norwegian dishes is the nature of the sauces and relishes that typically accompany fish and meat.  Because of the abundance of fresh berries of many kinds with extrememly robust flavor (due to slow maturing process in the cold climate), as well as the delicious cheeses (such as geitost or brunost), many meat and fish dishes are complimented by a nice berry relish or some sore of cheese-type gravy/sauce, or a combination of both!

Norway is one of the only places outside of Asia that truly utilizes the great mixture of sweet and sour.   This method of flavoring or marinating is especially common with fish.  Sild (herring) and laks (salmon) are two kinds of fish in particular that are commonly soaked in a sweet and sour marinade.  As you probably already know, sild is most often served pickled.  Many of you have perhaps only had grilled or baked salmon, maybe even smoked.  Gravlaks (sweet and sour cured salmon) is very popular in Norway.  Ørret (trout) is another popular fish, in addition to torsk (cod).  Fish has always been a staple of Norwegian cuisine, but shellfish has only recently been incorporated into the diet.

In a later post, I will go into more detail about particular dishes, as well as dessert! For now though, join me in making gravlaks. I’m going to go to the store today and buy salmon filets, white wine, and dill so that I’ll have what I need to bury my salmon in sweet and salty flavor for 3 days.  Mmmmm….

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. richard salivio:

    hi there i want to learn cooking about norwegian dishes because i have to cook for 2 norwegian on board aside from 24 filipinos….
    richard salivio

  2. Eddieboy M.Escano jr:

    good day,

    pleaase , give me some norwegian very popular menu which i can schedule for a couple of months from breakafast,lunch and dinner, highly appreciated if given me a chance to serve to my norwegian oficers,, thank you so much indeed,

    Best regards and more power to all,
    Seachef Escano jr,