Rakfisk is a fermented fish dish that is traditionally served in a Norwegian meal. It is a mildly flavored fish that is typically brined in salt water for at least 3 months. Generally, trout is used for making fermented rakfisk, but quite often, Char is incorporated in the dish. Salmon and herring are also the most popular alternatives.
‘Rakfisk’ is a combination of two Norwegian terms i.e. ‘rak’ meaning ‘soaked’ or ‘moist’ , and ‘fisk’ meaning ‘fish’. This dish is mainly served during Norwegian feasts and special occasions.
Origin of Fermented Rakfisk
Though the first mention of rakfisk was noted in the year 1348, the exact period of its origin is still mystifying. It is believed that this dish was invented much before than 1348, but due to lack of evidences, the fact is not verified.
Legends also state that this fermented fish dish is probably related to the surströmming, a Swedish dish that belongs to ancient Scandinavian food culture. The process of fermentation began in the times when the hunting-gathering way of living had evolved into a much urbane style of living and people started preserving food for a longer period of time.
Fermented Rakfisk: Preparation Overview
Fresh fish is particularly used for fermenting. All the guts and the gills of the fish are removed and fish is thoroughly washed to remove the blood from the skin. A fish brush is generally used to clean the blood stripe. Vinegar is the main component used to soak the fish initially for at least half-an-hour. A bucket is needed to place the fish side-by-side with belly facing upwards. Sea salt is sprinkled over the fish belly. Around 60 gm of salt is required for 1 kilogram of fish. A dash of sugar may also be included with salt in order to speed up the fermentation process.
After adding all the ‘brine’ ingredients, the rakfisk bucket is covered with a lid and a weight is put on the lid to pressurize the fish. The bucket should be kept in cold temperature under 8 degrees Celsius. Frequent checking of fish is necessary to ensure the proper brining and the extraction of enough fluid from fish. The bucket is kept under observation for around 2-3 months, until fish is brined properly. Extra salt water may be added in between for speeding up the fermentation.
Once the fish is brined, it is kept in the freezer to slow down the ‘raking’ process. Cold fish is considered ready for eating, as no cooking is required for fermented fish.
It should be taken care of that the fish does not come into the contact with dust and soil while the fermentation process is going on. Soil may lead to the formation of bacteria in fish which causes botulism.
Serving and Eating of Rakfisk
Fermented fish is a delicacy that is served as a fillet on any flatbread along with almond potatoes and lefse. Quite often, a mild mustard sauce or sour cream is also eaten with rakfisk.
Pregnant ladies and people having weak immune system should avoid fermented fish as it may lead to some health disorders.
Being a popular dish in Norwegian cuisine, around 400 tones of fermented rakfisk are made every year.