Thursday, April 12, 2012

Norsk Mat - Norwegian Food - Part 3

Hey, remember Norway?

Now that we've been Down Under for 7 whole weeks I figure I should revisit my Scando-culinary adventures since I was so adamant about photographing our food while we were there. Feast your eyes and stomach on my previous entries here and here.

Dish 1: Fårikål

Oh man, this picture does not look appetizing. But trust me: It is. Fårikål, pronounced four-E-coal, literally means "lamb in cabbage" and to me it is the quintessential Norwegian dish.

The beauty of fårikål is its simplicity. The only ingredients are lamb meat, cabbage and whole black peppercorns cooked for hours and hours in water. After that amount of time the meat is falling off the bone, and the flavors meld together to make a super tasty, super easy, super cheap (cooks for hours = use cheap meat) meal.

I do have one complaint about it, though: Eating around those black peppercorns is fraught with danger. Have you ever bit down on one before? I imagine it's similar to chomping down on a stone that's been infested with ants. It ain't pleasant. Luckily I'm not the first one to have felt this way so butchers now sell tea bags full of peppercorns, to keep the flavor intact while removing the danger of them floating around and getting into the good stuff. Norwegian ingenuity where it counts!

I implore you to make fårikål at home. It is, in my opinion, Norway's crowning culinary glory.

Dish 2: RisengrynsgrøtHow does thick rice pudding covered in butter, sugar and cinnamon sound to you? Delish, right? Well how about for dinner? Eeeew, gag me!

Risengrynsgrøt literally means "rice grain porridge" but I always just call it risengrøt. Not sure how ignorant I sound by calling it that.

I don't know how a rich, sweet dessert-like dish turned into a meal for Norwegians, but somehow, somewhere it did. Don't get me wrong, it's delicious, but too much is definitely not a good thing and a meal-sized portion is way too much of a good thing.

There is a similar dish called rømmegrøt, which is sour cream porridge, again served with butter, sugar and cinnamon. Just thinking about that version puts me into a diabetic coma. Again, it's very tasty but not large quantities- or meal appropriate. Everybody makes it from a package (or buys it pre-made) nowadays so it's surprisingly difficult to find a Norwegian recipe for it, so here you have it from the good old Sons of Norway.

Dish 3: KlumperKlumper literally means clumps. Clumps!

Um, appetizing...

These go by many different names in Norway. The more I Google the more I realize that the word klumper is actually not one of those names, so can I only assume it's just my in-laws that call them that? Or perhaps I am mistaking it with komper, which is one of the actual names used for them. Hey, I never claimed to be fluent (or even marginally competent) in the language.

Another name they go by is rasperballer which - I shit you not - means "grating the balls" according to Google Translate. Which is actually a pretty accurate, albeit disturbing name. These things (I won't even bother trying to use a name from now on) are grated potatoes mixed with flour to hold them together, then boiled. On their own they're pretty meh but it's the accoutrements that really make them special:

Melted butter and bacon!

What a glorious, glorious combination! Somewhere in the history of Norwegian cuisine hot dogs have also become a side dish, and I've always seen them served on the side of these things. Anything smothered in melted butter and bacon gets an A+ from me, and these balls of many names are no exception.

Dish 4: MakrellThese are mackrel. Nothing to really expand on here, except that these were caught in the ocean just out of town and given to us by a neighbor. Yay for being a localvore!

The reason I wanted to bring them up is to tell the tale about Norwegian children eating makrell i tomat saus (mackrel in tomato sauce) as a sandwich topping. Considering the fact that canned tuna is a pretty normal sandwich topping, it doesn't really seem all that interesting. Except the mackrels in Norwegian kids lunch boxes aren't finely shredded, unidentifiable pieces of meat like tuna is. They are nearly whole, sardine-looking, identifiable fish. In thick tomato sauce. That smells like cat food met death on a hot tin roof. And kids love it!

Nowdays you can find it in stores, but kids in Norway just don't grow up with peanut butter the way I did. Because of this, many find peanut butter vile. And that's just insanity because everybody knows PB&J is the ultimate sandwich combo. They also love leverpostei on their sandwiches, which is liver pâté. Spreadable, ground up liver as a sandwich topping. And kids love it!

Norwegian kids get fish and pâté. American kids get high fructose corn syrup in a jar. Think that has anything to do with the difference in obesity rates between the two countries?

[editor's note: After consultation with my mother-in-law I was indeed wrong about klumper vs. komper. I don't know where I got the idea that they were called klumps. She would also like the world to know that she makes her sour cream porridge from scratch. She's the Norwegian Martha Stewart, I'm telling ya!]

1 comment:

  1. Super editor's note, had a good laugh when reading this.