Destination Lofoten: a place in the sun like dried fish

VOICE (LOFOTEN). Every year to Lofoten, the miracle happens. Two million cod leave the Barents Sea and swim for love (it’s Valentine’s Day) to Norway, where many will meet a death like a Shakespearean drama. They stay dry. In the literal sense. They become dry fish (dried in the sun) or cod (preserved in salt), just like in the Viking Age. As in 1432, when the Venetian Pietro Querini was shipwrecked in Røst, he was rescued, discovered the existence of dry fish and, like a good trader, turned the bad adventure into a good business that continues today. We are the first (almost the only) market because 90% of the Lofoten dry fish comes to Italy and almost everyone speaks a little Italian. Querini is a hero: there is a plaque, a Querini fish soup and a Querini Pub & Restaurant.

Dried fish hanging to dry on the pylons

Placed on the water, as if a capricious hand had enjoyed uprooting earth and stones to throw them into the sea, immersed in an extreme and magnificent nature, Lofoten lives on dry fish. Those who deal with it talk about “love” and are not kidding. Fishing is the beginning. Then there is seasoning and canning, work that lasts from February to August and also employs children (they cut the tongues for a fee). The skreien, the best quality, hung by hand on the high racks, secured against the seagulls, are part of the landscape, they are blown into the air. Special monitoring (it requires snow, sun and wind, woe if the climate changes) collected after three/four months, classified by size, weight, quality (20 categories) is sent by twenty-two companies, tenacious guardians of tradition.

Chef Ivano Ricchebono and Gunvar L. Wie

Chef Ivano Ricchebono and Gunvar L. Wie

Nothing is thrown away from the cod. The dried and salted skin is turned into chips to accompany the beer, the liver in cod liver oil, an indisputable superfood. In Ballstad, one of the largest villages, they offer it clean and lemon flavored in vodka glasses. They tell you “it’s floating fish” and that’s the feeling. The eggs turn into a pink spreadable paste (caviar) that is sold in tubes as toothpaste. The language is a gourmet delicacy. At “Hattvika Lodge” in Leknes, where you sleep in fishermen’s houses that vibrate in the wind, they prepare it simply, breaded and fried. Chef Ivano Ricchebono, cod ambassador nominated by the Norwegian Seafood Council ( and a Michelin star, would like to serve it in his restaurant (Kokken i Genova), but it is not easy to get.

Line Evjen & egrave;  a & ldquo;  wrecks & rdquo;, that is;  check the quality some fish

Line Evjen is a “wrecker”, that is, it controls the quality of the fish

Another unusual experience: chewing dry cod flakes, almost crispy, removed with the knife from quality control manager Line Evjen (the only woman among Lofoten’s 20 wreckers, i.e. controllers-sniffers). “They’re snack pastimes,” he explains. Line has been working for twenty years, and to evaluate the fish, it looks at the color inside (it must be white), smells it, evaluates its spices. Two hundred thousand dried fish pass through his hands (and his nose) each season, and the best are for us. They are called “Italy lean”, “Italy large”, “Ancona”, “Westre lille”, and take into account the different tastes. In Naples and generally in the south they prefer the larger ones, in Genoa the medium ones. The heads end up in Nigeria in soups, the Portuguese buy almost all the cod.

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It may seem like a boring kitchen (just dry fish?!) instead in Ballstad, the chef Roy Magne Berglund from “Lofoten Food Studio”, so perfectionist that he is called “the surgeon”, creates fantastic dishes by combining shells, king crab, cod in carpaccio with a sauce of pine syrup, halibut marinated in soy, scallops and white asparagus, smoked herring roe, eel sauce, leek oil and an incredible seaweed that tastes like truffles.

But the sense of Lofoten is seen above all at Røst, a hundred kilometers beyond the Arctic Circle, a bubble of suspended time, a monument to slowness. It is home to Europe’s largest colony of puffins (which are not edible) while you guiltily savor the whale carpaccio. The island is a meadow dotted with colorful houses, with summer gardens where tulips and daffodils bloom, not at all confused (only by them) by the sun that never sets, by the light that is impossible to exclude despite shutters and curtains.

Ansgar Pedersen, John Greger As an expert

Ansgar Pedersen, John Greger As an expert

So we find ourselves at midnight, as if it were early afternoonbehind the windows of “The Creator”, art gallery, bar and space events with eccentric decor, a mix of Roberto Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana in their happiest maximalism, between furs and animal prints, gold and crystal. Tor Halvorsen, the owner, hairdresser-photographer-interior designer-artist-spiritual coach who moved here from Miami, before, during and after dinner, brings you in front of a canvas: everyone must express himself with a few brushstrokes. As the painting takes shape, cod and dried fish are presented in many imaginative versions, including tacos, but the pride of place is also the lamb, which is fed on the salty grass that grows on the rocks.

It is an old world where modernity breaks in every now and then, marketing. In Tromsø, the Halvors family meets the hasty (it takes 7-9 days to soak the dry fish, what madness!) Offers “cod of the future”, ready in portions. Perhaps they are right, and it is no coincidence that the idea came to them on the mainland. In Lofoten, time has a completely different dimension.

Nutritional values

76.1 g of water

20.7 g of protein

0.9g of lipids

0.3g of soluble sugars

1 mg of niacin

0.08 mg of riboflavin

0.01 mg of thiamine

340 g potassium

9 mg of football

163 mg of phosphorus

0.6 mg of iron

51 mg sodium

The numbers

330 thousand tons: the amount of cod caught each year (of which 13% have the Skrei quality mark)

3,557 tons: dry fish – i.e. sun-dried cod – is produced every year in Lofoten

200 thousand: the number of fish that a company wrecker can select (quality control)

90 percent: Lofoten dried fish sold to Italy (90% of the cod goes to Portugal)

37 million: the number of Norwegian seafood meals served worldwide each day

2-3 years: the time within which dry fish is normally consumed (after soaking)

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