5 foods you won’t find in Iceland

1. Semolina    semolina

Sweet semolina pudding, Italian gnocchi, Austrian gnocchi or semolina dumplings for soups – all dishes where semolina is needed. At first it seems such an unconsiderable ingredient. I never missed it back home in Germany. But here, where we can’t just buy an semolina pudding in a grocery around the corner (the next shop is 30 km far away), you have to take care of your sweet tooth yourself. Searching for it in Icelandic shops was hilarious. Just picture yourself explaining semolina! You see, that’s 2. level charade. I now switched to polenta, although I didn’t perfect its usage yet.

2. Bacon/Smoked Back fat


Back home I use it to accomplish the “special taste mission”.  Sauerkraut, red cabbage or original Saxon potato soup – all dishes which need some rendered bacon. But the kind you get over here in Iceland is, besides really tasty, more the kind of bacon British favour for their breakfast. Recognised that Icelandic food industry is more concentrated about lamb and sheep, pork and beef is not too common. I missed it mainly for the christmas dishes, but that’s ok. Less taste, but less calories. Hah.

3. Gnocchi


I love these little Italian potato dumplings. They are such a pleasure, just pure with sage butter and a bit of parmesan cheese on top, tomato sauce, mushroom cream sauce – ahh, so delicious. Icelanders are unaware of this pleasure! At least not out of the cooling shelf. As an Italian friend of mine put it: “What a sad country”. And if you want  to do them yourself, you lack Nr. 1 semolina, which make them more sticky – a doom loop. Not to mention the tasty, but teeny weeny Icelandic home grown potatoes you need to prepare them: Peeling them is PITA.

4. Savory


This spice is unbeatable to make common bean/ French beans dishes perfect and tasty. I love to prepare them with bread crumbs fried in a pan, savory, salt and pepper – yummy! It brings out the full flavour of the vegetables. And of course every proper green bean stew needs savory to perfect. Although the assortment of spices in Iceland is really great, this is missing so far. They simply don’t know it.

5. Clarified butter


Clarrified butter is perfect for deep-fry things as normal butter burns too fast. I love to use it especially to fry steaks, to prepare Indian curry dishes or whatever needs to be fried. Basically, it would be perfect to fry the Icelandic version of a donut, Kleinur, but seems like the Icelanders prefer oil.  As you can prepare clarrified butter yourself, it is not such a tragedy, but sometimes you really enjoy the convenience of a supermarket. And miss it, if you don’t have it in reach.

The good thing about all this is: You’ll get creative. You’ll find subsititute food or other dishes which come close to the original one. This makes you more experienced and broaden your repertoire. Oh, by the way: If one of the mentioned foods indeed exist on this lovely chilly island 63° North – please let me know where. Thx.


You will also have a hard time finding these products – unless you bother going to special shops like the Polish Supermarket:

  • Grape Juice
  • Sweet cherries in the jar

Have you ever lived abroad and missed some food painfully? What was is it and how did you substitute it?

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