Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

rakefisk the Norwegian name for fermented trout (or other freshwater fish), notorious for their smell but well loved in rural communities where they have been an established tradition for centuries, and now also acquiring ‘chic acceptance in urban society’. The phrase is from Astri Riddervold (1990a) whose book on this and similar Scandinavian fish products is as readable as it is authoritative.

Riddervold explains that the more famous product gravlaks, when prepared in the old traditional manner, involves burying salmon for a short period. Rakefisk is made by the same technique, but the fish are buried for longer. So, whereas gravlaks has never had an offensive smell, the more fully fermented rakefisk is quite different in this respect. Riddervold cites an 18th-century Norwegian clergyman as writing ‘that you would not dare ask a lady for a kiss when you have eaten this wonderful fish’, but observed that despite this handicap farmers in some regions would eat it every day. It is perfectly wholesome.