"In cod we trust" is the perfect slogan for a modern Norway society.
"Skrei" - the Norwegian Arctic Cod, is a name borrowed from old Norse meaning "wanderer." And not for nothing - the annual trip from the Barents Sea (about 400km) requires strength. Apparently, that's why the fish is very lean and muscular, and 60% of their fat accumulates in the liver 😊 Millions of cod fish gather along the northern Norwegian coast. The oldest and grandest cods arrive first, most likely the females. It is only later that the males dominate. The males and females swim together in tightly packed masses doing circles around one other. The male is on a constant search for a partner. When the male has finally been accepted by one of the females and found his mate, they carefully lay their heads together and swim. Slowly at first, then gradually faster and with more intensity, belly-to-belly. Soon after, millions of codfish eggs are fertilized, and the biological life cycle begins a new rotation. A large female can actually spawn as many as 5 million eggs within a 2- month period, and only a few stay alive. They can reach weights up to 55kg and measure as long as 180cm. The Arctic cod is a fish, without which, it is not clear whether Norway itself would have survived. Skrei was a very important source of protein and vitamins - the cod's fat compensated for the lack of sunshine. Dried cod has become one of the main export products of the country since the Viking times. Cities, like Bergen and Trondheim, made a living from the stockfish trade with southern Europe. The smell of dried cod is equal to the "smell of money" for the inhabitants of northern Norway, where flocks of matured Atlantic cod (it takes about five years to reach adulthood) arrive every year. 😊 The fishing season is from January until April. In the following months, the fish dries on racks outdoors. The gentle and salty coastal air has just the right amount of sun, rain, snow, and wind, which is perfect for the fermentation process. Lofoten's dried cod - stockfish, like champagne in France, can be proud of its geographical origin (PGI - protected geographical indicator). There is even a world fishing competition held in the Lofoten Islands every March for it specifically. There are two types of dried fish. The first is unsalted and called "stockfish'' - originally introduced by the Spanish and Portuguese. The second - cured and salted, is called "clipfish." Today, the clipfish is preferably produced of cod, but haddock, ling, cusk, or saithe can also be used. The fish is split by cutting down the side of the backbone and folding it out as a large triangle. The thickest part of the backbone is removed. The fish is then salted in large, circle-shaped piles until the flesh becomes salty and firm. After this salt ripening process, the fish is normally cleaned and salted again before alternately drying and pressing. Until the 50s, the drying process mostly occurred outdoors, on the rocks and cliffs. Since the 50s, indoor drying has become more common. I was very happy to see the old drying method still being used on the island of Runde: the only "supervisor" being nature. 😊
Dried cod is also a perfect example of today's zero waste concept. 😊 Fish fillets are gladly bought by restaurants in various western countries; the fried cod tongue is a local delicacy; dried cod heads go to Nigeria (where they are used in the preparation of the national dish); cod's milk, or sperm, sold to sushi restaurants in Asia; roe is used to make caviar or for the production of vitamins and omega-3 supplements, and the remaining tiny pieces of dried cod are a great snack. 😊
Nowadays, it is possible to buy dried cod ("tursk" in Norwegian), usually under the Spanish name "bacalao" at many grocery stores. Dried fish has to soak for several days before it is ready to be cooked.
Below the photos are from Alesund, which along with Kristiansund, is famous for its clipfish.
XL restaurant in Alesund specializes in dried cod dishes: klippfisk/clipfish - salted and on the cliffs dried cod.
Since 1999, XL Diner has been trying to establish itself as the best bacalao restaurant in Europe. Located in the city center with a view of the harbor as well as next to the tourist information center, it is always busy, so early reservation is highly advisable. We barely got a time gap the same day on the internet, even though when I called the restaurant directly, the answer was "we are fully booked today."
Clipfish is not only the main product on the menu but also in the design of the restaurant.
Royal Bacalao Plate: Bacalao Italian style, Bacalao Vizcaina (Spanish Basque style), and Bacalhau com natas (Portuguese style with cream), is one of the most popular dishes on the menu and a perfect way to sample bacalao in various cuisines.
Pan-fried loins of clipfish served with carrot purée, bacon, pea foam, and boiled small potatoes with skin.
"Today's catch" depends on the day's catch and the mood of the chef 😊