Norwegian Rakfisk - Fermented Fish
I didn't know what to bring home from Norway after spending Christmas there. Everything is bloody expensive in that country and most things one can find in Canada -- except Norwegian delicacies! So, I brought home:
1. Rakfisk (fermented fish)
2. Brunost (brown cheese)
3. Reindyrpølse (reindeer sausage)
Today I will blog about rakfisk. At first, the idea of eating rotten fish soaked in water for 2-3 months makes me want to gag. Sure, we have deep-fried rotten tofu in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the Koreans have their kimchi, the French have their moldy cheese, but rotten fish? B* had told me about how the Swedes have their variation which is called surströmming -- fermented herring sold in tin cans. Some airlines have banned surströmming because some cans actually bulge out and explode! Oy, isn't that a sign of botulism? I've never tried this Swedish food poison. I'm told that the Norwegian version (rakfisk) is milder in taste in comparison. My first taste of rakfisk was on a ferry from Sweden to Norway. I ate what appeared to me like chunky smoked salmon until B* told me that I had just eaten rotten fish. The taste was not bad (salty, slightly fishy) and the texture was very much like smoked salmon. But it's not something I would crave for or eat in bulk. So, I decided to bring home some rakfisk for my parents since they love fish.
Rakfisk should be served on bread with raw red onions or eaten with lefse and sour cream. (I call lefse Norwegian tortilla because it looks like a tortilla except it's made from potato and very tasteless.)
I did not mention the word "rotten" or "fermented" at all when I served this to my parents. I simply said it was a delicacy from Norway. Norwegian FISH!!! They reluctantly ate it because they're not fond of raw seafood (sashimi included). They thought the rakfisk was very salty and slimey ("Is this safe to eat?"). After they had a few bites, I told them it was rotten fish. Both of them cringed and nearly gagged. Dad could not finish his slice of bread with rakfisk. Mom gingerly ate her slice.
Since I had brought back about 2 filets of rakfisk, what the heck was I going to do with this?
I decided to CHINKY it up!
This is the world's very first Taiwanese Rakfisk Tartare:
-Chop the damn fish up
-Throw in some minced raw garlic
-Add some grated ginger
-Sprinkle lots of diced green onions and red onions
-Splash a little soya sauce
-Douse the whole thing with sesame oil
I am sure Vikings are rolling in their graves because my recipe is so sacrilegeous. I ate this with rice and thought it was quite delicious! My parents thought it was still quite disgusting. I should also mention that my mother attempted to rescue the rakfisk a few days prior to my experiment. She took some rakfisk and made some fried rice with it! Her conclusion, "It was even saltier after cooking! So strange! Like the salt came out after cooking or something!"
Conclusion: I have NO idea why Norwegians and other Scandinavians destroy seafood in the kitchen. Despite the abundance of seafood in the region and the cold temperature (which I would think minimizes the need to process seafood), my experiences with seafood in Scandinavia have been quite disappointing. For example, Norwegians love their shrimps. But the preferred cooking method nationwide is to boil the shrimp in LOTS and LOTS of salt or to immerse it in thick mayo for spreading over bread. I'm sure one can get very fine seafood dishes in Scandinavia at high end restaurants, which I've never been.