February 28, 2024

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What is Lutefisk, And When Do Norwegians Eat It?

What in the Heck Is a Lutefisk, and Why Do Minnesotans Eat It?

The traditional Norwegian Christmas meal of lutefisk is just one of many delights the holiday season brings. During the weeks preceding Christmas, Norway serves this dish. Contrary to salmon and tuna, lutefisk isn’t a fish in and of itself; instead, it’s a type of whitefish (typically cod) that has been air-dried to a stiff consistency. Lutfisk has a strong odor and a slimy texture, making it an acquired taste. It’s claimed that lutefisk developed a Christmas ritual due to Catholic fasting restrictions. Substitutes were fish and porridge. According to online reviews in Norway, Lutefisk is on par with Pizza. A good fisherman or specialized vendor may have it, but it needs to be homegrown. Therefore, it’s an expensive fish.

Some Facts About The Norwegian Lutefisk.

Before trying this contentious dish, you should know a few things (like how to eat it and where it is even sold).

1. History 

Before the Reformation in 1536, there was rent from December 1 to Christmas Day, and you could only eat fish, including on Christmas Eve. Even though Norway has a long coastline, it may be hard for many to get fresh fish in time for Christmas. So they used preserved fish instead.

2. Jelly Like Texture 

Fish breaks down during preparation, giving lutefisk a gelatinous texture. After soaking in water and lye, the fish is ready for consumption. Soaking and rinsing break down the fish’s protein, giving lutefisk its jelly-like texture.

3. Distinct Smell 

Lutefisk’s smell may be worse than its texture. Most people describe it as a strong, fishy odor. Lutefisk smells of fish, sourness, and ammonia. After cooking, the lutefisk smell fades, but some don’t make it.

4. Lutefisk Servings and Extras

As a custom, it is devoured while drenched in vast amounts of beer or aquavit, along with a warm cream or butter sauce. Where you are in Norway affects how you serve and eat lutefisk. Pea stew, boiled potatoes, and bacon dice are popular in Fjord, Norway. Tondela loves lutefisk with syrup and brown cheese. Some serve fish with turnip paste, while others wrap it in potatoes with butter. There’s no right or wrong lutefisk accessory combination, so try your own.

5. Super-Nutritious Holiday Meal 

Drying lutefisk has other benefits besides preserving leftover fish for the long Norwegian winters. Since it’s dried, bacteria and mold can’t grow and ruin the fish. Lye breaks down fish protein into amino acids, which the stomach usually does, making lutefisk easily digestible.

Dried fish contains iodine, zinc, copper, selenium, calcium, and healthy fats, according to Food Reviews International.

Final Thoughts

The Norwegians are given credit for inventing this meal. However, it is now commonplace in all Nordic nations and North America’s regions where Norwegians have settled. You can find lutefisk all over the world, not just in Norway. There are many ways to serve lutefisk during Christmas worldwide, including in the United States, Sweden, and Finland. Lutefisk is traditionally made from cod in Norway, but due to declining cod stocks in Sweden and Finland, ling is now more commonly used.