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Chef Ranno Karel barbequing at a beach in Nusfjord in Lofoten, Norway
Chef Ranno Karel cooks in Lofoten.
Photo: Thomas Rasmus Skaug / Visitnorway.com
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Whilst a meal should speak for itself, Norwegian star chefs also finally open up to talk about their secrets. Here they hint about why the culinary world is looking to the distinct flavours of Norway.

Right now, all over Norway, renowned chefs are preparing your next meal. One is out hunting for his favourite ingredient of the season in a city-near forest. Another is instructing his many international assistants in the heat of a brushed steel kitchen. Yet another is amusing himself by experimenting with tastes that will eventually remind us of the flavours and smells of the garden of our childhood.

Winners of international competitions like Bocuse d’Or have different methods. As different as they approach their art, they have nevertheless one thing in common: they keep themselves extremely busy in order to create that unforgettable yet perfectly balanced dish that is meant to be a highlight of your stay. Nothing else matters. That’s why it’s so rewarding to get them to talk.

From birch to sea urchins

Natural flavour, seasonal preferences and short-travelled delicacies sum up the tips Nord magazine’s Anya Seeberg Liaaen got from Norway’s hottest chefs.

Mikael Svensson, chef at Kontrast *, Mathallen, Oslo.
“I love the natural, fresh taste of Skrei [editor’s note: the type of cod that is born in the Barents Sea and later come to the Norwegian coast to spawn. Fresh from January to March]. Wild elderberry gives the fish a hint of Nordic springtime. Then I like to explore the applicable, ecological pork of the Mangalitsa breed from Gården i Svartskog, just minutes south of Oslo. The meat is accompanied by white asparagus. I whip herbs into the grease and serve with bread.”

Even Ramsvik, former chef at Ylajali * (closed 2015), currently co-owner in the restaurant group Lava
“I’m fond of the taste of in-between-season. Freshly cut Coppa ham from Ask, when cut very thinly, gives a fantastic rich and complex taste when you are longing for summer. In-between seasonal cuisine gives us the opportunity to create simple surprises.”

Photo: Tommy Andresen / Even Ramsvik

Robin Sohrabi Shiraz, Bartender at Fuglen / Tøyen Botaniske, Oslo
“I’m an eternal fan of birch [editor’s note: Norway’s national tree]. I constantly find new applications. The shots in spring suit perfectly for tea or for cooking syrup, giving a piquant flavour with a hint of pepper. The birch bark lends an ‘earthy’ flavour, which enhances both mushroom based sauces, game, and cocktails.”

“The light tones of the tree’s sap, which should be harvested in early spring, may remind you of coconut milk. Beetroot is also an absolute favourite, which embodies the same sweetness with ‘earthy’ qualities.”

Esben Holmboe Bang, chef and owner at Maaemo, Oslo ***
“Right now I’m into salted pear juice, mostly because it’s an undiscovered flavour that turns out to taste fantastic. It’s surprisingly fresh and complex. Apart from the pear, I’m always eager to search the nearby forests around Oslo for fresh herbs and other goodies.”

Johan Laursen, chef at The Thief Foodbar / Fru K, Oslo
“I find it interesting to work with the restrictions of seasonal ingredients. The Norwegian winter is long and gives the opportunity to use what we have at hand. One of many examples is the Norwegian onion harvested in October and used at the end of winter which gives a mild taste. Onions prepared with browned butter and vinegar are among my favourites.”

Fossheim hotel, Lom

Fossheim hotel, Lom.
Photo: Tina Stafrèn / Visitnorway.com

Atli Màr Yngvason, chef at Pjoltergeist, Oslo
“Someone came up with the cool idea of growing Shiitake in Norway. The quality is super. I’m a sucker for umami. This mushroom bursts an unmatched flavour experience.”

Renée Fagerhøi, chef and owner of Bula neobistro, Trondheim
“I embrace natural flavour enhancers like the ones found in seaweed, matured meat and fish. I like the powerful tastes which occur when we dare to let meat taste meat and sea taste sea. It is all about nature’s own flavours, which for too long have had an unfair reputation. Good ingredients demand a sprinkle of quality salt: I myself employ ‘Havsnø’ by the small manufacturer North Sea Salt Works, located at the Gossen island outside of Molde.”

Sven-Erik Renaa, chef at Re-Naa *, Stavanger
“The sea urchin is among my top seasonal favourites and I prefer the ones caught in the nearby Lysefjorden. I like the fact that I receive them only a few hours before serving them. These reproductive glands (gonads) are full of umami. I also embrace the nutty taste of brussels sprouts that occurs when sprouts have survived our winter frost. In addition, we find great pleasure in gathering the various wild herbs we find in the nature around Stavanger when we don’t use pickled spruce shots.”

Photo: Tommy Andresen / Even Ramsvik

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