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In March, I had the pleasure of joining some of Stockholm’s top chefs, as well as select food writers and bloggers from Sweden, on a seafood safari around Bergen hosted by the Norwegian Seafood Council. It was my first time back in Bergen after nine years! I lived here the first years of my studies, before I moved to Oslo to take my master’s degree. Amazingly, the sun was shining on Bergen these days, clearly in an attempt to deceive me and the Stockholmers to think this is normal. You can’t fool me though, Bergen, I know all about your rainy-ness! They say rainfall is good for fishing, however, and, I guess, as the world’s second-largest exporter of seafood, Norway can do with some angler’s luck.
Norwegian Seafood is the Best in the World
The seafood safari started on the safe shores, with Smak av Kysten – a conference for restauranteurs and seafood producers.
– Norwegian seafood is the best in the world, said the one-Michelin-starred chef Sven Erik Renaa from stage.
Renaa runs one of the best restaurants in Stavanger – restaurant Re-naa – as well as two casual eateries. According to him, the wonderful produce coming out of the cold waters of Norway can easily compete with other great seafood nations like Australia and Japan, or the US state of Alaska.
– Re-naa, our Michelin-starred restaurant is totally dependant on local seafood. My menu is heavily based on seafood, especially in the summer and winter when it makes out 80% of the menu.
Sven Erik had brought with him some of his finest ingredients, including mahogany clams, snow crab, and raw shrimps. He made a dish from each, that we all got to taste, starting with the clam. These marine mollusks, which can get up to 500 years, were hand-dived by the gourmet diver from Scotland – Roderick Sloan, or Roddie as he’s called among friends. Sven Erik Re-naa was actually one of Sloan’s first clients. Today, he is also known as one of the most trusted suppliers to René Redzepi at Noma.
The Myths About Fish Farming
On day two, the real seafood safari started, with a visit to Blom fish farm in Øygarden – an hour drive from Bergen. The Blom family have been salmon farmers since 1971, and know a thing or two about sustainable and environmentally friendly production.
We witnessed the salmon swimming around in the spacious and protected ocean pens that could have a circumference of up to 200 meters and a depth of 50 meters. Each facility was made up of 97,5% water, as only 2,5% of each aquaculture is allowed to be fish, in order to prevent overcrowding. The reason why it sometimes may look like fish have too little space in these net enclosures, is simply because they prefer to swim together in schools.
An automated feeding system distributed the right amount of natural fodder to the fish. What’s amazing about salmon compared to other farmed animals, is that 100 kils of fodder will produce 65 kilos of edible fish meat, compared to only 20 kilos of chicken meat or 13 kilos of pork meat. In fact, farmed salmon needs only 1,1 kilos of fodder to increase its own size by 1 kilo. Compared to wild salmon, that’s only a tenth of the energy consumed. I recommend this article if you want to learn more about the myths of farm-raised salmon.
Scalmarin – Live Storage Facility for Norwegian Shellfish
Co-owner Knut Magnus Persson showed us around the premises of Scalmarin – a live storage facility in Øygarden outside Bergen. Here, they store live scallops, oysters, carpet shells, horse mussels, mahogany clams, crayfish, shore crab, and sea urchins.
– We store them at 8-9 °C all year round, to allow wholesalers and restaurants access to the products at any time, Persson explained.
The main advantage of this facility is that they can supply excellent shellfish even in the summertime when the quality of the catch is not that good. No wonder some have called this place a shellfish spa.
– It has been interesting to take a closer look at these seafood facilities, and I think a collaboration with Knut Magnus Persson at Scalmarin is very likely in the future, said chef Joakim Karlsson after the visit.
He works as a chef at the one-Michelin-starred restaurant Sushi Sho in Stockholm. They have only 16 seats and serves omakase-style sushi using Nordic ingredients. The large white sea urchin, in particular, impressed chef Karlsson. He opened one up, with great curiosity and enthusiasm, and dug out the edible gonads to taste.
– On the East Coast, where we are based, there are hardly any shellfish – practically nothing. The colder the water, the better the quality of the shellfish, and Norway has a long tradition of excellent shellfish
Diving for Shellfish With the Shell Man – Mr. Oyster Dundee
The final stop of our seafood safari was restaurant Cornelius, which is situated at Holmen – a good 25 minute boat ride from Bergen. However, we were transported by Bergen Searib, which suited us up to withstand the high speeds of over 100 kilometer per hour. The ride from Scalmarin, far North in Øygarden, took no more than 15 minutes with their means of transportation, compared to the hour-long bus ride.
At Cornelius, we were greeted by Alf Roald Sætre, one of the co-owners, better known as Skjellmannen – the Shell Man – or Oyster Dundee as he prefers. He was wearing his diving gear, and jumped in the water to go hunt for our dinner. Of course, they do have shellfish tanks as well at Cornelius, where they store live lobsters, langoustines, crabs, and oysters. But as Sætre emerged from the water, we saw that it was sea urchins and scallops he had gathered for us.
– I’m putting out baby shells, thousands of them, and every year I can pick a few adult ones, Alf Roald explained.
Finally, it was time for us to just sit down, relax, and eat all these goodies that we had been watching all day long.
Stockholm’s Top Chefs Love Norwegian Shellfish
During the day, I spoke with all the chefs that attended the excursion to try to understand what kind of standing Norwegian seafood, and shellfish, in particular, have among Stockholm’s top chefs.
Joakim Karlsson of Sushi Sho seemed to be very familiar with our produce already, and said that Norwegian seafood has a great reputation in Sweden
– We work with some Norwegian seafood, especially farmed turbot which we use continuously, but also shellfish like snow crab, king crab, and scallops.
Saori Ichihara works as the head chef at restaurant Ichi in Stockholm, and was voted chef of the year in Sweden in 2018. She works with Nordic ingredients and Japanese techniques, and a large part of the menu is based on fish and shellfish.
– Norwegian shellfish are wonderful. The oysters had an intense flavor of the sea, a more metallic taste, and firmer texture. […] The [sea urchin’s] taste was so clear and creamy, with a lot of sweetness. I’ve tasted many sea urchins before, but this felt like something different, she said.
Nisse Molinder has more than ten seafood stores and twenty restaurants in Sweden, among them the well-known Melanders. His very first shop opened in 1961 in Östermalms Saluhall – the most known food hall in the Swedish capital. Molinder told me how much he appreciated learning about different Norwegian shellfish on this trip.
– The quality is magical. I’ve tasted fantastic langoustines, lobsters, and oysters. […] Perhaps, we should start looking more to our neighbors in the West for help with these products.
Seafood heaven! A couple of weeks ago I visited Bergen in Norway to experience Norwegian seafood. Omg, I’ve never had better seafood in my life! . If you go to Bergen, make sure to visit @corneliussjomatrestaurant and @restaurant1877bergen, two great restaurants! Check out my blog to see more from the trip (link in profile).
Rebecca Brage runs an Instagram account called @stockholmfood, where she recommends restaurants in the Swedish capital. I was very happy to meet Rebecca, finally, after following her for many years. I also recommended her different channels in my piece on Scandinavia’s top food bloggers. Brage said it had been a fantastic journey in Norway, and that she was in awe of the environment.
– We have met incredibly inspiring people. Restaurateurs, fishermen, and fish farmers. […] Swedes, and especially Stockholmers, love Norwegian shellfish. […] The oysters were the best I have ever eaten.
Check out the stories from some of the Swedish bloggers and journalists that took part:
What’s your favorite shellfish? Please share in a comment below.
This is paid promotion by the Norwegian Seafood Council (Norges Sjømatråd).