Everything you need to know about Nordic cuisine

Nordic cuisine is a vast variety which needs to be checked for its simplicity and insistence on fresh ingredients. Sapna Sarfare reveals about it in the 2nd part of unknown international cuisines in India.

Travelling allows you to indulge in cuisines which are otherwise just unknown to you. Yet a large part of world cuisine is unknown to you, if your travel is limited. India has still not been introduced to a large amount of cuisines which are delighting foodies the world over. Last Sunday, we spoke about Brazilian cuisine and this time, we speak about Nordic cuisine. And mind you, the range is as vast as our own cuisine.

Say Nordic cuisine and the range cover 5 distinct countries with a common thread of Nordic history. Chef Deepu Alamchandani, Chef and co-owner, Cafe Mestizo, Pune reveals that the term Nordic is from Scandinavia which makes up Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. “Food-wise, they aimed at being a self sufficing, food culture with an emphasis on purity, simplicity and freshness. The food professionals of the countries encourage their local gastronomies to make use of locally available ingredients and condiments.”

Chef Vinesha Pahwa also agrees with Chef Deepu with regards the focus of Nordic cuisine on fresh and unusual ingredients. “You can find a lot of cured food in Nordic cuisine. “Since 2000s, they have been representing Nordic or rather Scandinavian region and the territories associated with the regions like Greenland. For example, Denmark is known for myriad dishes like baked sweets.”

Food always represents the region in many ways. Chef Deepu reveals, “Due to the extreme climatic conditions, food was scarce. During the summer, anything that could be eaten was salted, smoked or dried. It is also referred to as poor man’s fare. Where they make do with what was available turning them into extravagant dishes.”


The region’s history can been seen in the food in so many ways. But here it is slightly different. Chef Vinesha feels nutrition, health and food can be found interlinked with Nordic culture. “One can say that throughout Nordic history, scarcity and poverty has been linked with food and necessity. Also, the strict Lutheran culture brought in a strong connection between nature and food. You will find it in activities like hunting and fishing and eating outdoors.”

Some ingredients are what you call staple for Nordic cooking. They include spices like saffron, vanilla, nettles, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, allspice, nutmeg, powdered ginger, sweet aniseed, wild juniper berries, gravlax (to cure fish), frozen huckleberry (specifically lingonberries), orange peel, caraway seeds and sassafras root. Due to surrounding water bodies, you find the use of fish on a wider basis in Nordic cuisine. Then there are the veggies like kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and root veggies. Chef Vinesha speaks of cheese and an Icelandic staple called Skyr which is a thick and fresh cheese and has the same consistency like the Greek yogurt.

Who can forget reindeer and elk meat? As mentioned earlier, Nordic countries depend heavily on cured meats and fish due to the weather conditions. There is also dependency on lamb Venison and pork with regards meat, while fish is represented by cod and herring.

Look around and you will notice regions choosing certain preparation techniques to make their food, either to enhance the taste or keep it for longer time depending on their need. Chef Deepu divulges, “Owing to the long winters, most of the food, if not all, was prepared for the aim to preserve the food to last during the non-yielding months of the year. Thus, they use age-old techniques of drying, curing, smoking and preserving. No special equipment is needed but backfire a coffee grinder helps with roasting and grinding spices to maximize their volatile oils which then gives you more flavour.”

Of course, special occasions call for special dishes which represent the cuisine. Here, Christmas is one festival of prime importance. So, according to Chef Deepu, you see Nordic dishes like rice pudding, Christmas ham, herring, cheese, bread, meat balls, small sausages, cabbage, veil and so on. “Easter is also widely celebrated. While the Scandinavian cuisine is distinct and conservative, you will notice the influence of the Italian and French cuisines as well.”

Chef Vinesha speaks of an open-faced sandwich called Smorrebrod which has different food items like cold cuts, pastes, salad dressings and cheese. “Buttered rye bread is used which comes with different toppings. People usually have it with beer or snaps.”

Beetroot tartar with fried chicken wings and apple
Beetroot tartar with fried chicken wings and apple

Beetroot Tartar with Fried Chicken Wings and Apple


500 gm Beetroot (thin julienne)

2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Salt and Pepper

1 Red Onion (chopped)

1 Apple

1½ tbsp Mustard

1 tbsp Olive Oil

2 tbsp Freshly Grated Radish

1 tbsp Honey

A few Mint leaves

For Chicken Wings:

300 gms Chicken Wings

4 tsp Rapeseed Oil, for frying

20 gms Butter, for frying

Wholegrain Bread


Start by peeling the beetroot and then cutting into thin julienne. You can then put the beetroot cubes in a bowl and marinate them in vinegar, salt and pepper. The rest of the beets go into in a pot with water to be boiled for 40-45 minutes until tender. Pour cold water onto beets and slip the peel off. Then you peel the onion and finely chop it. Of course, the apple core needs to be discarded. Cut the apple into tiny cubes. You have to cut the cooked beetroot into cubes the same size as the raw beets and toss them with red onion, apple, mustard and olive oil. You then mix the cooked beetroot cubes with the raw marinated beetroot, freshly grated horseradish, salt, pepper, honey and chopped chervil. Note that the beetroot tartar should be fresh, sweet, spicy and “hot” due to the radish and mustard.

Do fry the chicken just before the meal. Start by putting oil in a hot frying pan, and fry the chicken wings for a moment. Then, put the butter in the pan and let it brown up around the chicken wings. You then season the chicken well with salt and pepper. The wings should only cook for approx. 12-15 minutes or until they are perfectly cooked. So keep the pan very hot. You then arrange the fried chicken wings with beet tartar, and serve them with wholegrain bread on the side.

  • Recipe by Chef Deepu Alamchandani, Chef and co-owner, Cafe Mestizo, Pune

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Well-Known dishes from Nordic countries

DENMARK: Pølsevogn, Stegt Flæsk, Frikadeller, Millionbøf, Havregrød, Øllebrød, Gule Ærter and Rødgrød Med Fløde

FINLAND: Leipäjuusto, Vispipuuro, Mustikkapiirakka, Lohikeitto, Kaalikääryleet, Sultsina, Kalakukko and Omenalörtsy

ICELAND: Hangikjöt, Skyr, Kjötsúpa, Ein með öllu, Plokkfiskur and Hákarl

NORWAY: Røkt Laks, Tørrfisk, Kjøttboller, Fårikål, Krumkake, Pinnekjøtt, Pølse med Lompe and Smalahove

SWEDEN: Våfflor, Kanelbulle, Filmjölk, Toast Skagen, Prinsesstårta, Knäckebröd, Gubbröra, Saffransbullar and Cinnamon Buns


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