6. Rye bread (and butter)
Icelandic rye bread, or rúgbrauð, is a staple of Icelandic cuisine. There’s a million ways to eat it: topped with smoked salmon and cream cheese, chopped and blended in ice cream, served with extra creamy butter and crunchy lava salt. However, if you ask any local, there’s really only one way to make it right. It should be buried 30 centimeters in the ground next to a bubbling geyser. Made famous by Sigurður Rafn Hilmarsson, a national icon reigning from the small town of Laugarvatn, the bread is soft (almost spongy) and tastes more like cake thanks to the added sugar he sprinkles in the dough. It takes about a day to cook in a pot underground, but the end result brings thousands of visitors (and locals) to the Golden Circle’s Laugavautn Wellness Resort and Geothermal Bakery every year. If you can’t make it to the hot springs, opt for a taste of the delicious bread and the island’s famed butter at Brauð & Co.
Families in Iceland almost always had fish for one of their daily meals. Stewed, boiled, fried, roasted, or grilled, fish has been a mainstay in Icelandic cuisine for as long as people have lived there. Delicacies like plokkfiskur, or “mashed fish stew,” kept the locals satisfied during the painfully cold winters. Although times have changed, fish is still a huge staple in many local diets.
Seafood has been a huge economic driver for years and has helped bring the country back to life after the crippling 2008 economic meltdown. Fishing is the largest export in the country, but that doesn’t mean locals aren’t devouring it by the shipful. Cod, salmon, and haddock are the most common, along with langoustines, a favorite for most local gourmands.
“Lobster is also one of the best things Icelanders eat. The small Icelandic langoustine is incredibly tender and delicious and an expensive favorite for many, myself included,” Halldorsson laughed.
Fish is found aplenty all throughout Reykjavik, like the gratinated fish with rye bread at Slippbarrinn in the Marina Hotel. Fish even makes an appearance in salty snacks, like Harðfiskur (or fish jerky made from wind-dried cod or haddock), which can be found in almost all grocery stores.