Rakfisk, a Traditional feast in Norway

Blogging about our culture and habits; I would like to share some of the most distinctive and traditional Norwegian dishes as it also involves a family gathering. This isn’t a daily type of dish, but hundreds of years old recipe eaten in December (at Yule tide – so it’s the modern thing: fridge, that makes us able to enjoy it even in March!). We are talking about Rakfisk, and let me show you my plate (all Porsgund Porcelain from my home town!) as I go on describing it (click on all pics to enlarge):

Rakfisk Dish #2
Rakfisk, almond potatoes, egg, onion, sour cream (to the left: Flatbread before I add butter)

The word “rak” comes from the Norse word “rakr”, meaning moist or soaked. It descends from Indo-European “req”, which mean source or drop, which is also related to the word rain and you can find the word in irrigation. The rakfisk is put into a bucked and then fluids (with ocean salt, a bit of sugar and water) are formed, it is brined. In the oldest sources, on the other hand, the rakfisk is mentioned as “brine- cured fish”. And of course, originally the fish was buried or put in underground cellars. The supposition for this conservation method is an even soil temperature at about 4 degrees Celsius, and that’s why the tradition is found around the polar circle at the northern hemisphere. Fish for raking is salmon, herring and shark in addition to the gwyniad. Trout/char are the most commonly used today.

What you drink to Rakfis is also very traditional and is a part of Norwegian history since the Vikings time: Beer of course and then Aquavit (distilled beverage from potatoes). Let me show you the table set with the plate, the glasses and the bottles:
Rakfisk Drinks
Mind the carafe or decanter to the left of the Aquavit bottle: Its a shot glass on top with your personal doze in the carafe.

What you serve together with Rakfisk, varies from districts and families. You’ve seen my plate, so let me show you how our hosts (my mothers cousin and husband) are doing it:
Rakfisk On Flatbread
On typical Norwegian Flatbread

I’ve told you this is an old, traditional feast so of course we are not finished yet. May I also emphasize that gathering around a nicely set table – for hours – talking about all kinds of things including updates in the family since last year – is an important part of the Norwegian habits. We are talking about slow food, story telling and enjoying each others company. No stress, no french fries but food made and eat with passion. So there is no feast without dessert – another Norwegian Yule tradition: Multekrem: made by mixing Cloudberries with whipped cream and sugar served with coffee avec:
Dessert #2

This is my 17th year in a row at this feast and my wife, Diane’s 9th. If you like to dig into more details. I have posted about the last two earlier: ‘Norwegian Family Tradition with Rakfisk‘ and ‘White, white snow of home‘. For this years feast, I took a lot of more pictures and have as usual, collected them in a movee:


You all know I love comments as it enriches the subject to hear the reactions from all over the world. If you know of similar kind of foods from your country, I would love to hear about it!

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RennyBA

I’m a creative, enthusiastic, self motivated man with extensive experience in networking.

45 thoughts on “Rakfisk, a Traditional feast in Norway”

  1. I’m thinking of the typical food. It has to be delicious. I would really like to know the true cuisine of Norway as you teach in your blog. Some typical family restaurant. I also think that here in Spain we have products with denomination of origin, world-renowned products such as ham, olive oil, etc … I would love to know what the Norwegians.
    Renny you are very kind. I hope to be with you in August. I’m a little scared because I know no one and my English is not perfect.

    Hugs

  2. Looks like another awesome meal. Would love to try it sometime. Do you make it yourself or purchase? And, did you know when you google “rakfisk” you are #2 on list – only after wikipedia’s entry.

  3. Very nice information…the World needs more Bacon info! Thanks for this, Hallelujah πŸ™‚
    Sincerely,
    Rev. Tex B. Acon
    First Pastor of Baconpops – Maple Bacon Lollipops
    WWBD – What Would Bacon Do?

  4. May I compliment you on the excellent presentation on rakfisk! I live in America an a relative just brought me some rak oerret from Wangsten in Valdres. I have never eaten rakfisk but have heard much about it also about its pronounced smell. The Wangsten product looks beautiful pink in color and shrink wrapped – so no smell. In the transit from Norway the Wangsten package might have been out of refrigeration from time to time. Could this present a problem? As you might have guessed, I am concerned about food poisoning. Is the any danger of that? I would greatly appreciate your comments.
    I shall be looking forward to your comments.

    Olaf Steen

    RennyBA
    Thanks for the compliment Olaf (a very Norwegian name!) and how nice that you have relatives who can bring you rak ΓΈrret from Norway!
    The smell was bad sometimes in the old days, but seldom nowadays as they are better in the fermenting process and Wangsten is know for excellent products.
    Since I don’t know eventually how long time it have been out of refrigeration, its hard to say, but I don’t think there should be no problem.
    Bone appetite and it would have been nice if you could tell me if you liked the rak ΓΈrret.

  5. Hello Renny!

    Is Rakfish to the Norwegian, and Herring to the Swedish? Is that it? I’ve been hearing about Herring but never really tried it. Had the chance in Sweden but felt like I couldn’t take it. πŸ™‚ But am thinking, maybe same with Sardines or Anchovies (and a lot more πŸ™‚ … ) to the Filipinos? Maybe? πŸ™‚

    Enjoy the rest of the week!

  6. Yummy! The food looks divine, you’re really making me hungry now, I suddenly feel like having a nice baked potato with lotsa sour cream and bacon bits! πŸ™‚

    RennyBA
    Thank – your suggestion for a good meal sounds great too πŸ™‚

  7. Hey that’s some good looking food there. Thanks for sharing the history there Renny, very interesting..

    RennyBA
    Your welcome Grish – glad you liked it too.

  8. The great thing is that not only are you enjoying your food and socialising within your family, but you’re sharing your food with the greater blogosphere and we can all join in the socialising too. Wonderful meal, mouth watering!

    RennyBA
    I take it as a great compliment A. That’s what Blogsphere is all about, isn’t it πŸ™‚

  9. It sounds like a lovely family tradition and wonderful to cherish. I didn’t know Aquavit is a distilled beverage from potatoes! the things we learn through blogging.. It is interesting to read the origins of the Raskfisk.
    I am not much of a fish eater nor Aquavit lover but truly enjoyed your post and I could almost hear the conversation around the table and the sound of silverware and porcelain. Cheers!

    RennyBA
    It is – family quality time.
    Glad I can learn you something and in that way BlogSphere is great – like reading your blog too!
    It’s the combination that makes it smashing you know – and of course the socialisation aspect – Cheers to you too!

  10. You know I’m a shameless non-eater of fish but I’d join you for dessert and coffee…and conversation!

    RennyBA
    I know Ruth, but knew you would love the dessert and enjoy the conversation!

  11. Hi! Here in Brazil we eat the grilled salmon and hardly or never we eat TubarΓ£o. Dom sea we also eat linguados, badejos or cherne and some small ones. Water abundant candy, fish, mainly tilΓ‘pia and trouts! I liked its porcelain and the way as it presented plates.
    Debtor for the visit to mine blog! πŸ™‚
    She always comes that to want!
    Beijus

    RennyBA
    Hi Luma! Always great to meet new visitors and I don’t think I’ve had that many from Brazil, so you are very welcome!
    Thanks for sharing your food traditions too – I love it – that enriches the subject! Good to see you like sea food too!
    Welcome back any time!

  12. Awesome site that you have here. I’ll be coming back regularly.

    I’m craving now to eat the delicious food in the pictures. You see, I love eating!!!
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    RennyBA
    Thanks for your compliments – always great to welcome new readers – welcome back any time!
    I can tell you love all good things in life πŸ™‚

  13. It ALL looks and sounds quite delicious, Renny…..The Almon Potatoes sound particularly yummy….! I love that this is a leisurely meal and that there is no rushing…And so much sharing with each other, too!
    The desert looks quite marvelous too…..! I very much enjoy ALL your pictures of foods that are traditional in your country!

    RennyBA
    Thanks Naomi and yea, Almon Potatoes is a must.
    Yea, slow food dinner is recommendable – glad you liked the whole menu!

  14. A simple looking meal but something I would choose over many five star menus in restaurants.

    RennyBA
    Thanks, I take your word for it as I know you are a traveller and an expert Sidney.

  15. This looks delicious Renny and one day I hope I will get the opportunity to eat Cloudberries. It is just a touch too hot for them to grow here in Australia.

    RennyBA
    Glad you liked it Sue. You have to come and visit one day, so I can serve you some cloudberries!

  16. Thank you for sharing. I had this before at a Norwegian festival. I haven’t visited the Norwegian area for a while. I love eating raw salmon.

    RennyBA
    Your welcome – always great to share with new readers too and specially those who love see food. Tell me when you are coming back to Norway as I would love to meet you!

  17. It has been awhile since I had raktfisk!!! My eyes feasted… LOL

    RennyBA
    Lucky you live in Norway then as it is not easy to get Rakfisk other places in the world πŸ™‚

  18. Namaste’; Renny though I cant say I am appetized by this. Your presentation was wonderful and I enjoy learning about what people do tradition wise. This was a beautiful presentation and I do know many whom would salivate! hahaha

    metta
    sky

    RennyBA
    Nice to see you Skylar and I do understand. You need some time to adjust to the special taste (took me more than 20 years:-)
    Thanks for your compliments though – I always want readers to learn something from my post!

  19. Interesting food I might say. πŸ˜€

    hey thanks for commenting on my blog on Big Bang post. I’m from #643 and #360. take care

    RennyBA
    Thanks – happy to share it with you too πŸ˜€
    Great to welcome new readers and thanks for joining the Big Bang list!

  20. Oh my. I love, love, love (emph on love) this post. This is sooo my kind of food/drink. I’m on my way over, k?

    You stop by my place too. I have a thank you – if you’ll have it πŸ™‚
    here: http://rnning2wn2.blogspot.com/2008/03/spreading-lovies.html

    Have a grand day, sir. *hugs*

    RennyBA
    Loving you, loving food – your of course welcome over any time!
    Thanks for your lovely award too – I’ve collected it on my Award page!
    Wishing you a good one too – hubs back!

  21. You always make me want to become a Norwegian, Renny, when I read your posts like this!!! πŸ™‚

    RennyBA
    Nice of you to say so Ginni – remember you don’t need to become one to visit us again πŸ™‚

  22. Wow Renny! The food is ‘screaming’ for me to reach out for them πŸ™‚ I can’t help but notice that the egg yolks are big as compared to ours here….once we slice them, the yolk is much smaller πŸ˜€

    RennyBA
    Glad I could ‘touch’ you with the food πŸ™‚
    About the egg yolk: You should see the size of Norwegian chicken πŸ˜€

  23. I havent tried rakfisk but I did try lutefisk during Christmas and I think it was really gross so I concentrated on eating the svineribbe instead. But the rakfisk looks nice!

    RennyBA
    I think you’ve already been digging in quite well to the traditional Norwegian food then Chase – so next time rakfisk then!

  24. Renny, the array of food displayed is making me salivate on my keyboard πŸ˜›
    I can’t help noticing how big the egg yolk is!!!
    I’ve got a family that loves salmon and wouldn’t mind having it every other day πŸ™‚

    RennyBA
    Glad you liked it too then πŸ˜›
    Egg is good for milden the distinct fermented taste.
    Another fish family – great πŸ™‚

  25. these dishes look wonderful Renny !!
    I’m afraid our humble Aussie barbecues pale in comparison…though our dampers are pretty tasy…
    thanks for presenting all these dishes so beautifully πŸ™‚

    RennyBA
    Thanks Kim!
    Well, I’ve had barbecued tuna fish in Australia when visiting more than 10 years ago and that was great!

  26. Renny, those are delicious. I think that Salmon taste better uncooked…though I cannot convince my family to eat it until it’s been overcooked!

    I have gotta make it to Norway, and we’re stopping by your place so you can take us to all these yummy places.

    RennyBA
    I agree, as long as you make sure its Norwegian Salmon πŸ˜‰
    You know your welcome any time – I’ll glad show you around and have a feast with you!

  27. Yum, yum, can I come over for dinner? It looks so good. I love Salmon. Oh, the deserts they look so good I could just about taste them. What a feast! Thank you for all the pictures. I think I would have liked being a Viking just for the food! LOL!

    I have some thing for you at my site.
    Love and Blessings,
    AngelBaby

    RennyBA
    Tell me when you are coming to visit and I’ll try to find more Rakfisk (the season is over so hurry up!).
    Yea; A Viking kind of life has its advantages πŸ˜†
    Thanks for you Blogsphere gift to me – its collected already in my Award page!

  28. Sounds like lots of fun. I can’t imagine sitting at the dinner table that long though. We eat, clean up and then go to the den to hang out. You certainly talk a lot more too. That’s a good thing. It seems everyone here is just in a big hurry about everything. Have a great time. πŸ™‚

    RennyBA
    Its fun and I also think it is important to hold on to that kind of tradition and gathering – ‘Slow food’ has a deeper meaning you know and in the urban and stressful life, it’s easy to forget to make memorable and quality time. We seams to run away from ourself.

  29. Wow…I could stay here at this table all night eating and drinking…you make everything look so appetizing! Mahalo for sharing your tradition and culture!

    RennyBA
    Yea; so we did πŸ™‚
    Thanks for the visit, you know I love to share our traditions!

  30. It’s just lunchtime here in Charleston and you made me really hungry now with all that good stuff…mmmhhh! I’m a big fish lover and we have a lot of fish on our table too.

    Very nice, interesting post and great pictures.

    RennyBA
    Hope you’ve had a good lunch then and glad we share the passion for fish too!
    Thanks for your compliments!

  31. The Rakfisk looks delicious and is quite the tradition! Thank you for sharing part of your culture.

    RennyBA
    Yea, one of the most traditional or special you can get in Norway I would say – that’s why I love to share it with the rest of the world you know.

  32. A great tradition it is, sitting around the table for hours with Rakefisk. The only risky thing here is the Aquavit;)) if you are not used to drink it. LOL.

    RennyBA
    As a local, I know you’ve got it Tor! and also you are right: you need to be experienced with Aquavit, but Vikings have a long drinking traditions you know πŸ˜†

  33. That looks very yummy, something to copy, although I am not sure to get rakfis here in Brussels.
    But I have something for you today, a Belgian beer museum ! Quite amazing !

    RennyBA
    Glad you would try, but haven’t seen Rakfisk out of Norway (okay, maybe Sweden then:-)
    I’m over to visit then!

  34. You were right, Renny. I was already hungry before I read your post and now I’m starving! Everything looks delicious, and I’d love to try the cloudberries and whipped cream. We’re much too far South here for them, but we do have lots of other berries, like blackberries, blueberries, dewberries, loganberries and mulberries, just to name a few.

    Have a great new week, Renny. πŸ˜‰
    Love and hugs,
    Diane

    RennyBA
    I knew, so I had to invite you over of course.
    Can tell you’ve lot of nice berries too, but with Rakfisk you’ll need claudberries πŸ™‚
    Wish you a great one too Diane!

  35. The Rakfish looks so yummy! It’s the first time I’ve heard of it. Oh boy! I want to try this dish! The almond potatoes look unusual, I don’t see them in our supermarkets.

    I’m also good as fish food. hehehe……

    RennyBA
    I knew you would love it – come, visit and try! Almond potatoes is a typical mountain potato and grows well in Norway you know.
    So what kind of Aquavit do we drink with you then hehehe……

  36. Excellent presentation of food, culture, and family.

    Thank you for sharing!

    RennyBA
    Your welcome – always great to welcome new readers and thank you for the compliments!

  37. so am i to guess from the pictures that there is a particular type of aquavit that is supposed to go with the rakfisk, not just any kind of aquavit?

    RennyBA
    How observant Lime!! There is different kinds and various from districts and for different kind of food!

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  39. I love the idea of ‘slow food’ – lots of socializing and enjoying the food and the conversation.
    I have only tasted cloudberries (in a liqueur) once but I have never forgotten how delicious they were. I don’t think they are available in the UK…. πŸ™

    Thank you for sharing your delicious feast.

    RennyBA
    You got it: Socializing is a key word here!
    That liqueur is great and the Finish is best!

  40. What amazes me the most is that your food always looks so fresh! I can almost taste it (but unfortunately, not :lol:)

    RennyBA
    Fermented but still fresh – yea πŸ™‚ Glad you got the feeling from my description and the pics – maybe one day you can come and visit and taste too!

  41. Oh how wonderful. I am so happy you wrote about this and that you took so many pictures! Everything looks o good. I bet I would LOVE it! All my favorite types of foods!

    RennyBA
    I know you would love it Maribeth; Coming from a seafood district of US too – hope one day you and your husband can come over and eat this together with us!

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