Ad for the Norwegian Seafood Council
Stockfish is a traditional Norwegian ingredient with a thousand-year-old history. We call it tørrfisk, which literally means dehydrated fish. However, you can use it either dry or rehydrated with water. Stockfish is mainly made from cod, but also saithe, tusk, haddock, and ling. The fish is hung outdoors on drying racks and dried by the wind and the sun. It is unsalted, and, as such, different from klippfisk, which is dried and salted cod. Starting this week, a lot of restaurants in Oslo will feature stockfish on their menus in different varieties, as part of a campaign by the Norwegian Seafood Council to raise knowledge about Norway’s longest sustained export commodity. I got to choose three restaurants that I wanted to visit to try their dishes. Of course, I selected some of my favorite restaurants in Oslo: Arakataka, Sentralen, and Smalhans. Whether you’re a Norwegian or a foreigner visiting, and familiar with tørrfisk or not, you should check them out too.
Sous chef Szymon Sierant (26) from Poland prepared Arakataka’s stockfish dish in their food bar, which is where you will find it on the menu this week. Arakataka is a casual restaurant with a great value-for-money set menu (you can also order à la carte) focused on Nordic produce. While it’s recommended to book a table in the restaurant, you can always drop by the food bar without a reservation.
– This is deep-fried puff pastry with stockfish, söl (Icelandic seaweed) mayo, fermented lemon zest, cornflower, and sea lettuce. On the side is a pesto made with ramson and more fermented lemon, Sierant explains.
I consulted the sommelier and ordered a glass of Grüner Veltliner from Nikolaihof as a green and acidic contrast to the rich dish. I quickly realized, though, that the dish was well-balanced too. This is like an upgraded, Nordic-style, bolinho de bacalhau – except it’s made with unsalted stockfish. Yes, it’s savory, with a creamy inside and crispy outside as you would expect, but the topping of söl mayo, fermented lemon zest, and sea salad gives it a freshness, which is even further enhanced when you dip it into the tangy ramson pesto.
If you’re seated in the restaurant, stockfish is also part of the regular menu, but only as a snack together with bottarga and a mix of butter and Nýr. However, you can always ask to get this dish from the food bar as an extra course.
At Sentralen, a Nordic brasserie centrally located in Oslo, I talk with the head chef Christina Grønning (24). She is Danish, and not accustomed with stockfish from her childhood like many Norwegians. Her approach to working with the product has been to keep the conventional flavors that people expect to find, but give the dish a modern twist, while making sure it stays within the casual and chill style of Sentralen.
– Norwegians eat stockfish with bacon and peas, and we wanted the dish to be recognizable. Thus, we serve it with an espuma made with peas, drizzled with leek oil, and crispy chips of Jerusalem artichoke, carrots, and bacon, Grønning tells me.
The fish is poached in a broth of white wine vinegar, sugar, and bay leaves. I loved this dish in particular because you can really feel the uniqueness of stockfish as a product. It’s still flaky and soft, but with a distinctly threaded texture. Not chewy at all, but definitely with some more resistance than regular cod. Also, the course is perfectly balanced with the fish that has been added salt and acidity, the creamy, sweet espuma of peas, and the crispy, salty and sweet chips of carrots, Jerusalem artichoke, and bacon. Simply, a dish that leaves you wanting more with every bite.
As a pairing, I asked the waiter to surprise me with something good – either alcoholic or non-alcoholic. He chose a glass of Cortez from Testalonga, a wine producer in the region of Swartland in South Africa. A light and easy-to-drink white wine with a fresh, citrusy acidity that cleans the palate between each bite of the dish.
Karl Torbjørn Andersen (27) is the head chef at Smalhans – a neighborhood restaurant at St. Hanshaugen in Oslo. They work a lot with rustic, home-style food – both Nordic and around the world. Stockfish is a traditional ingredient in Norway, just like clipfish is in Portugal, and that’s where he has gathered his inspiration for Smalhans’ dish.
– We bake the fish, make a potato puré, mix and season with salt and pepper, and deep-fry into a sort of bolinhos de bacalhau – but with stockfish. On the top you have grilled piquillo pepper and a spicy, piquillo pepper mayo, Andersen explains.
I was seated in the bar area, which is a no-reservation-zone. As a standalone dish, I got a good portion of four croquettes, but if you book a table at Smalhans in the evening you’ll actually get one as part of the menu. Both the Smalhans- and Krøsus-menu starts with a serving of snacks, usually featuring different hams, and this week also a cod fritter.
A good croquette is crispy on the outside, and soft and mushy on the inside. Smalhans’ version was no exception to that rule. A bit on the salty side, with sweet peppers and a slightly spicy and fatty mayo, it needed some acidity to clean up and give me that fresh mouthfeel again. One of Smalhans’ waitresses, Sara Skybak, suggested the Malvasia from Camillo Donati.
– It’s dry, acidic, and refreshing. A pet nat AND an orange wine, it doesn’t get more trendy than that, right?
I would have to agree. Also, it was just what the dish of stockfish bolinhos needed.
Will you check out any of these restaurants in the coming week? Or did this inspire you to make a dish with stockfish at home? Please share in a comment below.
This is a paid ad by the Norwegian Seafood Council (Norges Sjømatråd) to promote stockfish. I chose the restaurants myself, and the evaluation of each dish is my personal opinion.