Postcard from Iceland #2 | Viking Sushi

Do you like sightseeing excursions by boat? Yep, I do.

Do you like bird watching? Yep, I do.

Do you fancy eating raw scallops and sea urchins only seconds after they’re pulled out of the sea? OH MY GOD YES, WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

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Seatours run what they call Viking Sushi excursions out of Stykkisholmur harbour in North West Iceland throughout the summer months. The standard and short versions are much the same; a difference of an extra half an hour out on the water; both take you out to the same local islands to view birdlife and unusual geological formations (with fascinating local mythology to explain them) before treating you to the “sushi” experience.

Our itinerary meant we could only make the shorter one, which turned out to be perfect. Any longer, and the cold winds out on the sea might have become more of an endurance test; as it was the sights followed by the sushi kept our minds off the chill factor.

Although the sun was shining, the air was cold. As we gathered speed, a scurry for gloves and scarves was accompanied by muttered regrets about not wearing warmer clothing. Chatting to other guests, we huddled on benches around the open front deck, admiring the coastal landscape as we headed out to sea.

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The first island we approached was a nesting site for black-legged kittiwakes – adults have yellow beaks and black only at the end of their tail feathers; juveniles have black beaks and additional black markings around their eyes, on the back of their necks and along their wings as well as the tail tips. They made their nests in the natural hollows and on the ledges around the cliff edges. Moving around the island, a geological fascination of sweeping upright striations in the rock drew our attention.

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The next island was the focus of a local myth. Lodged into a natural crack in the island was an immense boulder, said to have been hurled by an angry mountain troll in protest at being disturbed by local church bells. The clincher to the tale, so our guide insisted, was that the boulder has since been tested and is not of the same rock as the rest of the island.

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Moving on again, we found a colony of shags on a series of rocks jutting out of the water.

Finally, it was time to lower the net plough to the ocean bed. A few moments later, the crew winched it back up, opened it and let the contents spill out onto the metal counters below.

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There were about 20 of us on the excursion and we crowded around as two crew members quickly started opening the scallop shells and offering plump raw scallops on the half shell. A little wasabi, soy sauce and pickled ginger were provided, though they quickly ran out. Most of the other tourists politely tried a scallop or two, but seemed nonplussed by the raw seafood and wandered away again. Only a few were willing to try the sea urchin roe, though I did persuade a few more to give it a go, and they enjoyed it.

I was in absolute heaven and said to the younger female crew member that I’d happily carry on eating both as long as she carried on opening them and she seemed very happy to do so. I must have eaten at least 20 enormous plump scallops, so deliciously sweet and fresher than I’ve ever had before. I probably had the roe of five little sea urchins too!

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Click to enlarge

Oh, I did miss a sighting of a white-tailed eagle that Pete (not a fan of scallop or sea urchin roe) enjoyed while I was gorging on the sashimi feast. I was far too happy to feel any regret!

Our Viking Sushi Short tour cost us 5,025 kr per person (about £25) and was one of my highlights of the trip.

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14 Comments to "Postcard from Iceland #2 | Viking Sushi"

  1. Laura@howtocookgoodfood

    What an interesting tour, i have always wanted to eat fresh sea urchin. and scallops that fresh are something else. My problem is I have no sea legs at all. I nearly dies the let time I was at sea! Iceland looks like an amazing country to visit, you must have loved it.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Hi Laura,
    Oddly enough, I get motion sickness on land (in cars, coaches, even trains on occasion) but I have the best sea legs you could imagine. Was in a really scary storm in the Drake Passage, most of the 100 passengers were laid out in their rooms, I was one of about 6 that was fine and still made it to dinner!!!
    But actually, this excursion is not far out to sea, so it wasn’t choppy at all!
    Even Pete, who doesn’t get motion sickness on land but does at sea, was absolutely fine!

    Reply
  2. Mary

    Iceland, August 2009

    My recent trip to Iceland was a great experience. It is an interesting country, not only for the landscape but the history of its people who are descendents of the original Vikings.

    My flight was on Icelandair out of JFK. This is the only airline that flies from the US to Iceland. I had upgraded from Economy Class to Comfort Economy and it was a terrible service, the food was inedible and the seats varied according to how many people were in First Class.

    The entire week I stayed at the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica, which was about a 30 minute walk from the Old Town. One reason I picked it was because it was a stop on the Hop-on Hop-off Bus line. I would definitely recommend this hotel. The staff was outstanding; I had a beautiful view and the buffet breakfast quite bountiful.

    In Reykjavik, among other things, I strolled around the Old Town, saw the Pearl (a large space with restaurants and deck on top of 5 water tanks) and visited two museums. The National Museum which is filled with archaeological finds from all over the country. It condenses Iceland’s history in a manageable way and with high-tech exhibits.
    The Settlement Exhibition in the 871+or-2 Settlement Museum was excellent. In 2001 workers excavating for an underground parking garage stumbled upon the remains of a Viking Longhouse. The ruin was kept in place and excavated for exhibition. Around it are high-tech displays which give a lot of information about the Vikings and the Long House. It is the oldest known evidence of human habitation in Reykjavik.

    Many tour companies offer day trips. I chose to go on the ever popular Golden Circle Tour with Horizon which visits the spectacular site at Thingvellir where the Iceland National Parliament began in 930 and the North American Tectonic plate is drifting away from the Eurasian Plate, Gullfoss ( a massive waterfall) and Haukadalur which is a geothermally active area and has a geyser,Strokkur, which conveniently erupts every 5 minutes or so.

    I took two tours with Reykjavik Excursions. The one to the South Shore was through the spectacular southern plain along side green-covered volcanic mountains. We stopped at two waterfalls. Skogarfoss which is large and misty and then Seljalandfoss. At Seljalandfoss I walked behind it for a very unique experience. The Skogar Folk Museum had an interesting collection and old buildings. The weather was quite rainy and windy so our stop in Vik, the most southern town in Iceland, and a walk on the beautiful black beach of Reynisfjar was restricted.

    The third day trip I went on was to the Snaefellsnes Pennisula. Again we saw spectacular scenery. We circled the peninsula through crater filled plains, small fishing villages, along dramatic cliffs, past escarpments of hexagonal basalt columns, and through lava covered with moss. Again the weather prevented some of the activites, but we were able to stroll Djupalonssandur, a beach with black sand, black pebbles and eroded clumps of lava. The famous icecap on Snefellsjokull which dominates the countryside was covered with clouds the entire time.

    Here is a list of the some of the food that I had on my Iceland trip.

    Skyr a mixture of yoghurt and low-fat curd blended with fresh fruit. I can get this at Wegmans here at home but it isn’t nearly as good.

    Hakarl putrefied shark. Ok I only tasted this. Greenland Shark which has been buried in gravel for months, washed by the tide and hung to dry in the outdoors. Smells and tastes like ammonia.

    Smoked Puffin: I am ashamed to admit this. Dark meat which tasted fine. Served with baby root vegetables.

    Gravlax: appetizer of raw salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill and served with a dill and mustard sauce. The one I had was accompanied by thinly sliced radishes and caviar. I loved this so much that I ordered it more than once.

    Fish: I had Arctic Char, Turbot over pureed lentils, Grilled and Baked Salmon (of course I didn’t have to ask if it was farm raised or wild), and Plaice. All were very good.. Preparation was usually quite light and lovely.

    Lamb: I usually don’t eat lamb, but I had Medallions cooked rare and very tender.

    Icelandic Meat Soup: A kind of vegetable soup with lamb meat cubes. Available at restaurants at major tourist sites. Very good.

    Foamy Mushroom Soup: Don’t know much about this except it was mushroom soup and it was foamy instead of liquid. Very tasty.

    Creamy Lobster Soup: Very nice, but the lobster tails floating in it contained over-cooked meat. Maybe they were for decoration and not meant to be eaten.

    Potatoes: Many entrees were accompanied by plain boiled potatoes or sautéed baby potatoes. For some reason they were delicious and needed no extras to enjoy.

    Barley: I had an appetizer with barley, broccoli and herbs which was very nice.

    Sandwiches: Combinations of veggies, sliced eggs, some with ham on nice rye or grain bread are available prepackaged at various locations such as gas stations.

    Desserts: I didn’t have many desserts, but did have Blueberry Ice Cream, Ice Cream whipped with Strawberries and mixed with little hard candies, Apple Crisp, Oatmeal Cake.

    Hot Dogs: Everything I read said that the Icelanders love Hot Dogs and that they would be available everywhere. I am not a fan of Hot Dogs, so I didn’t go looking for them. The most famous stand is near the harbor in Reykjavik and always has a line of people.

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Mary, super report!
    We did many but not all of the things you did, and we ate most but not all of the things you ate!
    Thank you so much for sharing, that’s a great comment! x

    Reply
  3. Katie Bryson

    Great shots, the sea urchins are stunning!
    I have to be honest it’s my idea of a nightmare trip… I hate boats and raw seafood so doesn’t sound like the trip for me! Lol – glad you guys had fun though 🙂

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Haaa, ok fair enough, you’d probably not love it so much! It was pretty calm though – Pete suffers from sea sickness and was fine and dandy.

    Reply
  4. Marcus

    Something I’ve always wanted to try, I love super fresh sea food, and I know where to get it from, one day I’ll visit Iceland and give it a go.
    Cheers
    Marcus

    Reply

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