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A trip to Scandinavia is a journey for the senses: from the crisp air of the Norwegian fjords to the dazzling lights of the aurora borealis. Your taste-buds get just as much of a treat, thanks to the delicious staples of Scandinavian cuisine and the glut of world-class, Michelin starred-restaurants cropping up in the region’s capitals.
Here’s our ultimate list of the delicious delicacies to try during your Scandinavian cruise, from treats to nibble with coffee to indulgent main courses.
Let’s start with that’s arguably the most famous of Northern Europe foodie exports: the smorgasbord. The Swedish word has come to mean a selection of different items or styles, which is exactly how it looks on the plate: a diverse offering of open sandwiches, smoked meats, pickled fish and cheeses.
Smorgasbords are most often served at functions to accommodate a lot of people, or on special occasions such as Christmas or birthdays. The good news about such a varied dish, is that there’s always something for everyone. In Denmark and Norway, the Smorgasbord is known as a koldtbord, translating to “cold table”.
Gravlax is enjoyed throughout the Nordics, thanks to the abundancy of the coastlines. Raw salmon is cured using dill, salt and sugar. It is cut into thin slices and served on it own, on bread or with some boiled potatoes and a mustard dill sauce.
The flavour is fresh and delicate, making gravlax perfect for enjoying at breakfast time. You’ll also often find this regional favourite gracing a smorgasbord.
Fika isn’t so much a delicacy, but a ritual. In Sweden, fika is a break for coffee and cake with friends, and it is considered so important that a lot of Swedes make time for it every day. Rather than just a coffee break, fika is seen as a pause in the day for socialising and slowing down. Common fika treats include cinnamon buns, cookies and indulgent cakes.
The tradition dates back over 100 years, and in some cities you can even take a “fika tour” of the best cafes and sweet spots in town.
Made popular in the UK by a certain Swedish flatpack furniture brand, meatballs are also enjoyed all over Scandinavia. They differ drastically from the ones you’re likely to find in Italy.
Whereas Italian meatballs are served in a rich, tomatoey sauce, the Scandinavian variety comes with more of a thick gravy, making them creamy and indulgent rather than tangy. Enjoy with fresh crusty bread for dipping, or a side of fresh veg.
One item you’re likely to find on a smorgasbord or koldtbord is pickled herring. Known in Swedish as surstromming, it consists of Baltic sea herring that’s been fermented and lightly salted.
Pickled herring has been a staple of Swedish cuisine since the 16th-century, and is often served as a starter before a main meal. It’s delicious with a couple of dollops of dill sauce and a generous serving of crème fraiche.
In fact, some Norwegian lefse would be perfect for dipping in your meatball sauce. These little flatbreads are made from butter, flour, potatoes and milk before being cooked on a flat griddle, much like a crepe. You can have your lefse sweet or savoury.
Top with butter and sugar for an afternoon pick me up, or stuff with salad and eggs for a lunch-time wrap.
The story of the intriguingly named Danish Dream Cake is a heart-warming one. It begins in 1965, when a young girl entered a local baking competition using her grandmother’s much-loved recipe. The cake went on to win and then take the nation by storm. We reckon it might have something to do with the airy and moist sponge, coconut and caramel topping or the crunchy brown sugar sprinkles.
Do as the Swedes do and take some time out of your afternoon to enjoy fika with a slice of Danish Dream Cake and a strong coffee. The Scandinavian countries Finland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden all come in the top 10 of the biggest coffee drinking nations in the world, after all.
If you’re stomach’s rumbling already, sate your appetite by browsing all of our Scandinavian and Baltic cruise itineraries.
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