Types of Nordic Food – Part 1

The different cuisines of the world reflect the landscapes of the country, if the country is particularly large then obviously the climate and types of soil are also very important. In Nordic cuisine water plays a very big part in what is eaten, as the coastlines of Scandinavia provide an abundance of fish that is loved by the people. Further inland the native animals such as deer and boar feature in many Nordic recipes. What is a common thread of Nordic food is the use of pickling or sousing, as it has been a way for centuries to preserve food in the harsh winter months when it is impossible to harvest fresh vegetables.

Nordic cuisine is far more than pickled fish, vegetables and meatballs. Scandinavia is a vast area stretching from the land of the midnight sun in the north to the fertile fields of Denmark. And this large varied landscape brings variety into the food of the people.

The Nordic Way of Life

Considering that for many months of the year it is almost impossible to go outdoors in Scandinavia, the Nordic people love the outdoor life. It is probably because they are forced inside during the harsh winters that they make the most of the Spring and Summer months.

There are several ingredients that link all the Nordic regions together, and they bring a distinctive Nordic experience to anybody who eats the cuisine. These ingredients have been passed down for thousands of years and are part of a shared culture from the region. The Nordic people call their cuisine husmanskost, it is a simple food and the term means homemade food but in many places in Scandinavia it is translated as farmer’s food. Nordic people prefer the ingredients to stand out in their dishes, so don’t expect fancy sauces or clever culinary techniques, that is not what Nordic food is about.


The Swedish word smorgasbord translates into buttered table, and indeed smorgas is the term for sandwich. What it has developed into is an array of dishes like a buffet, which can be hot and cold. The traditional way to serve a true smorgasbord is to start with pickled fish dishes, then some cold meats and then some hot dishes. At the end of a true smorgasbord instead of desserts, cheese will be served. The table is laid out before the guests arrive, but there is a type of Danish smorgasbord called det kolde bord in which dishes are sent one by one to the dining table.

Smorgasbord is normally enjoyed as a lunch or brunch occasion and is a very social affair often taking hours to consume with many shots of aquavit enjoyed. Dishes that you can expect in a true Nordic smorgasbord are: pickled herring, beetroot, apple salad, meatballs, smoked and cured salmon. There is also a choice of crispbreads and ryebreads and an abundance of dill, which is probably the most used herb in Nordic cuisine. In part two of our culinary exploration of Nordic food, we look at fish, meat, bread and desserts.