Fish and Seafood delight from Norway

Walking on the dock of the bay near the Town Hall and Aker Brygge in Oslo the other day, I passed by a Seafood Fair. With my Nokia Mobile phone at hand, I was thinking this was an opportunity to tell my readers a bit about why seafood is an important part of the Norwegian diet. Let me give you an example from a stand at the fair before I go on (click pics to enlarge):

SeaFoodFairOslo2008 #2
How about a skewer with scallops, shrimps, salmon and clams?

One obvious reason why seafood is important in Norway is our long coastline. At least 80% of the population lives nearby the sea and fjords. In the old days when the Norway was rather poor, seafood was on the table almost 7 days a week and they felt very lucky to have a meat meal once in a while for Sunday dinner. When I was young, I remember we had fish for dinner at least once or twice a week: Cod, Mackerel, Atlantic Herring (often salted), Haddock or Pollock. I remember my mother’s fried Pollock with onion – it tasted like a good steak :-)

The second reason: Fish is third biggest export next to oil & gas (from the beginning of the 70s) and metal. Norwegian salmon and trout are well known all over the world, especially in North America, Asia and of course in Japan. Most of it is fresh fish, but some are preserved like smoked or Gravlax (cured in salt, sugar, and dill):

SeaFoodFairOslo2008 #6 SeaFoodFairOslo2008 #10
Left: Preserved Salmon vacuum packed. Right: Smoked Salmon sub.

What might surprise some though is that the essential ingredient of Bacalhau – salted dried codfish – comes from Norway (Bacalhau da Noruega):
SeaFoodFairOslo2008 #5

You might wonder why we make all this preserved type fish, but remember; Before refrigeration, there was a need to preserve the fish (as well as the meat); drying and salting are ancient techniques to keep many nutrients and the process makes it tastier. The same goes for the special Norwegian Rakfisk (fermented fish) and Lutefisk (lye fish) (click to read my post about both of them!)

Very ambivalent to it since I know some of my readers might have a special feeling for this, but it would be a fraud not to mention whale while talking about Norwegian Seafood traditions. Be aware of that we Norwegians are as much concerned about threatened and endangered species as the rest of the world. We are only talking about Rorqual whales (Balaenoptera) and official statistics tells there are 170 000 of them in the North Sea and there is a quota of hunting for only 800 per year:
SeaFoodFairOslo2008 #7
Fresh whale steaks costs NOK 145 pr. kilo (30 $ per 2.2 pound).

So now you know why seafood is so important to Norwegian and why I often post about it. It’s a very healthy food too you know. I wonder how often you eat seafood, what kind and if it sometimes might be fish from Norway?