It doesn’t matter if you’re the self-proclaimed foodie of all foodies or just someone who loves eating really good, high-quality meals, you'll want to listen up: There’s a new cuisine in town that’s going to give your favorite Italian dish a run for its money.
Introducing: Nordic food. Let’s start with some background. We bet ya didn't know that the best restaurant in the world is not in New York, Paris, or Spain. It’s in Copenhagen. Noma, a two-star Michelin restaurant specializing in "New Nordic Cuisine," has made waves in the restaurant industry. And lucky for all of us, the trend is making its way across the oceans and into the U.S.
Why New Nordic Cuisine Is #Goals
In 2004, some of the best chefs from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden came together and created the “New Nordic Cuisine Manifesto” that laid the foundation for the cuisine: Their mission is made up of 10 points that emphasize purity, seasonality, ethics, health, sustainability, and quality of food. Sounds like a restaurant description out of Portlandia, but this is legit, and it’s been around for the past decade. We're all just finally catching up.
The cuisine also builds upon the basics of the Nordic style of cooking, which emphasizes old, pure, and simple techniques, such as drying, smoking, pickling, and curing meats. And it celebrates foods that grow year-round in the cold temperatures of the Nordic region. Ugh, they do this and live that hygge lifestyle? We’re moving there.
Oh, but wait, we don’t have to. This love of the land and simple style of cooking has begun to spread to America. Just to give you an example of what could be popping up in your hood soon: In Los Angeles, father-and-son duo Chef Christer Larsson and Chef Ian Larsson recently opened Alta Nordic Kitchen. Menu items include wild mushrooms and a new take on Biff Lindström, a Swedish dish made from onion, potato, red beet, capers, and ground beef.
Alta also makes use of one of the most common elements of Nordic cuisine: seafood. “Thanks to the cold water of the Atlantic and the North Sea, seafood is of great quality and has a firm texture and an intense flavor,” Larsson says. At his restaurant, they use wild Coho salmon for gravlax (a raw cured salmon dish), and the chefs prepare halibut on a wood-burning grill. “The Nordic forest also provides an abundance of products and flavors throughout the fall and winter months, such as wild game, mushrooms, and lingonberries,” Larsson says.
While the ingredients themselves matter, nothing is more important than adhering to quality standards and keeping the food pure and simple. “Finding the best ingredients is the cornerstone of Nordic cuisine,” says Larsson. There’s no need to slather on sauces or use complicated spice rubs. “Sometimes, a piece of fish is best served with some simple melted butter on top,” he says.
Eating the Nordic way isn't all about what you're cooking up at home (although we highly recommend you try making fish with just butter). You can also get your fix with these three Nordic-inspired snacks that are already available in stores (or on Amazon).
3 Nordic Snacks to Eat at Home
We may not all be so lucky to travel to the Nordic region or even have a Nordic restaurant in our hometowns (yet), but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some elements of the cuisine at home with these clean, delicious products. We’ve tasted every single one of these, and are, quite frankly, obsessed.
Skyr has gone mainstream in the U.S., with multiple varieties of the traditional Icelandic yogurt found in many local supermarkets. But our favorite is Icelandic Provisions.
The company trumpets its dedication to food that's nourishing, mindful, and enlightening (the same dreamy description you'll find in the New Nordic Cuisine philosophy). Oh, and it also tastes *really* good. We talked to the founder, and because of the way it's made, he said it’s easier for lactose-intolerant people to digest it. His wife is dairy-free but can eat this type of skyr without any problems. And from personal experience, even if you’re not a huge yogurt fan, this brand might turn you on to the simple morning meal.
2. Goodio Chocolate
Created with the principles of transparency, sustainability, and well-being in mind, Goodio makes chocolate that embraces Nordic flavors, such as sweet licorice and piquant Nordic sea buckthorns (don't knock it 'til you try it). It also offers classics for us less adventurous folks, such as coconut and mint, but you can’t go wrong with any of the options.
Handmade in Helsinki, Finland, these bars use mainly organic, raw, and wild ingredients (you know, the more natural, the better). Not to mention the packaging is gorgeous. Someone could only be so lucky to get them as a gift… hint-hint. Allergies? They've got you covered: dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO.
The number of bars on the market can be quite overwhelming (let's be serious, it's total chaos when trying to pick the right one), but Kur does something a bit different.
Sweetened only with organic dates and mixed with organic nuts and cacao, these bars represent the Scandinavian principles of premium quality and simple ingredients. While these aren't considered meal-replacement bars, they're perfect for a snack or dessert because the cacao mint and brownie flavors are a dream for all chocolate lovers.
Embrace the principles of Nordic cuisine by enjoying simple products with few, high-quality ingredients, and get inspired in the kitchen by cooking a meal made with wholesome ingredients. Your farmer’s market will become your new favorite weekend spot to pick up local produce, cook a piece of wild fish with just butter and herbs, or ask for lingonberries (they might have them!) to sprinkle over your store-bought skyr.