Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Nov 25, 2008 07:45 PM

Lutefisk [split from Quebec]

(Note: This post was split from the Quebec board at: -- The Chowhound Team).

Maybe the Icelandic consulate in Montreal could help point you in the right direction?

Consulate General Of Iceland
1 Place Ville Marie, Montréal
(514) 982-0188

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Isn't lutefisk Norwegian?

    I've never seen (or smelled) it outside of Scandinavia, though I know it can be had in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    Hmm. Just checked Wikipedia. The article's pretty good and includes the following passage: "Lutefisk is also very popular in Nordic-North American areas of Canada, especially the prairie regions and the large Finnish community at Sointula on Malcolm Island in the province of British Columbia, and the United States, particularly in the Upper Midwest and Northwest. From October to February, there are numerous Lutefisk feeds in cities and towns around Puget Sound." Malcom Island. Who knew?

    Doubt there's a large enough Nordic population in Montreal and environs to support a brisk lutefisk trade. As you suggest, inquiring at consulates would be a good place to start, as would Lutheran churches with Scandinavian congregations, assuming any still exist (Montreal's Norwegian Seamen's Church closed a few years ago).

    8 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      > Isn't lutefisk Norwegian?

      I must have mixed it up with the rotting-shark dish my friend had in Iceland. ;-

      1. re: kpzoo

        Ah, yes. Hákarl. Mmmm...

        Hákarl, Surströmming, Lutefisk, Rakfisk: the Nordic quadrumvirate that rules the rotten/fermented fish world.

        Funny quote from today's entry on Nancy Nall's blog: "It’s always interesting to me how many cultures still eat the foods of poverty and deprivation long after they no longer need to. (Someday I’ll publish this as a scholarly thesis called, simply, 'Lutefisk: WTF?')"

        1. re: carswell

          If we stopped eating the foods of poverty and deprivation, there would not be pouding chomeur at PDC !

          1. re: souschef

            No huge loss, IMHO.

            Besides, putting the word deprivation in the same sentence as APDC is a recipe for cognitive dissonance.

      2. re: carswell

        Malcom Island (off northern Vancouver Island near Port McNeill) was settled by a utopian Finnish group in the early 1900's. I wouldn't describe it as a large community, even if descendents of these Finns make up the bulk. Nice place to visit, camp and hike. I imagine they get their Lutefisk from Seattle, or direct from Minnesota.

        For a while a group of Danes tried to settle on the far NW tip of Vancouver Island, but now all that's left is a few ruins in the Cape Scott Prov. Park.

        As sold in the grocery, lutefisk is not particularly vile. It's more bland, cooking up as a rather gelatinous fish. Flavor comes from toppings like melted butter, black pepper, or cream sauce.

        In parts of France, the same dried cod is call 'le stockfish'. A Provance preparation calls for soaking it several days in the rain water, Then it is boiled, mixed with potatoes, and finished with boiling walnut oil. (The Anthropologists' Cookbook, ed J Kuper, 1977).

        1. re: paulj

          Thanks for the background on Malcom Island and environs.

          Grocery store lutefisk has probably been deodorized. In any case, the pungent smell is related mainly to the transformation of the dried fish into the final product, not the final product per se.

          The French stockfish dish you're referring to is called brandade, and often involves garlic and milk/cream and olive oil (first time I've ever heard of using walnut oil) along with the potatoes and reconstituted fish. Incidentally, the above-mentioned Au Pied de Cochon (APDC) makes what is arguably the city's best version, especially now that Le Paris has bit the dust. As far as I know, APDC has yet to venture into lutefisk territory.

          1. re: carswell

            The walnut oil version comes from Figeac, which appears to be about as out-of-way as you can get in southern France.

            1. re: paulj

              Ah, ha. Should have guessed as much. Figeac is about 50 km east-northeast of Cahors. Definitely in the southwest, which is walnut oil and duck/goose fat country. The versions of brandade I'm familiar with are from Provence, the southeast, which is olive oil country.

      3. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet".......

        Not to say that Lutefisk and roses smell alike or as that Lutefisk smells good but what you say about "Lutefisk is rarely seen (or smelled, notes carswell) outside of Scandinavia" a load of bs......just because it isn't called "Lutefisk" doesn't mean it isn't. It's just that the rest of world that does eat the stinkfest calls it by other things such as: bacalhau/bacalao/baccala/stoccafissa/salt fish, etc.

        I was in Portugal and there "bacalhau" is practically their national dish!

        How myopic can a Chowhounder be......

        3 Replies
        1. re: kawachi

          There was just a show on lutefisk on the History Channel, yes the History Channel, and they highlighted a company in the U.S. that manufactured and shipped it.

          The oh so clever hosts then went to a church supper in Minnesota and proceeded to bash the lutefisk, calling it fish jello.

          I don't eat the Italian version of baccala either.

          But, why the lye?

          1. re: dolores

            Regarding the use of lye: lye is produced by washing wood ash. On the American frontier, lye was used to make soap, and to treat corn, producing hominy. Dried salt cod is board stiff. Most people soak it in repeated changes of water to soften it and remove excess salt. I suspect that at some point some Viking accidentally found out that including lye in the soaking water sped up the process. It may also be more effective in cold weather. Soaking salt cod is a smelly process even without the lye, and is best done outside. That's easier to do in Portugal than during a Swedish winter.

            As to the fish jello description, yes, it is somewhat translucent, and definitely soft.

            Both Mark de Carlo (sp?) on Taste of America, and Andrew Zimmerman on Bizarre Foods (both Travel Channel) have sampled it. Mark in particular can be expected to make jokes about foods like this.

          2. re: kawachi

            CreateTV has been playing a holiday episode of the New Scandinavian Cooking. The host (Tina, a Swede) named an number of items on the Smörgåsbord, mostly cold fish dishes (herring, salmon, etc). Included on a buffet warmer was Lutefisk and sides of melted butter and white sauce. She pronounced it so fast I almost didn't catch the name. The the 'te' did not get as much emphasis as I'm used to hearing (or saying).

          3. Please people, do not confuse Lutefisk with Bacalao. Salt Cod, or Bacalao, is merely salted cod. Lye added to the curing of Lutefisk transforms the similar fish into a very DIS-similar foodstuff (some people would argue that Lutefisk is actually a foodstuff?). As my father was a good Lutheran Norvegian from Minniesoda, we ate Lutefisk every Christmas eve. Living in OR & WA we rarely found the dried Lutefisk which required soaking. The gelatinous common grocery store version could vary tremendously in quality. Many Norskiis also over-cook Lutefisk...turning it into nasty slop. The die hard Christmas people would sop it up with their Lefse anyway. As DH hates Lutefisk...we eat Salt Cod. Much more versatile, and far less "unique".

            2 Replies
            1. re: PotShard

              PotShard, my mother was a good Norwegian Lutheran from Texas and I grew up in a Norwegian Lutheran church in Dallas founded by Norwegian immigrants in the 1920s. My mother didn't eat lutefisk and I have never eaten it either. When I was growing up, there was one store in Dallas that carried "gourmet" items like lutefisk in season and Gudbransdalost (gjetost) so this is where everyone went to get those things. Our church suppers had meatballs, but I don't remember any lutefisk. I just got back from 4 days in Bergen (it was wonderful and I can't wait to go back when more is open) and I didn't eat any there either. I avoided the whale meat on the Christmas Day buffet at the Radisson Hotel, but the baked haddock was good, as was the roast beef with gravy and the boiled potatoes (naturally) were excellent. The dessert bar was to die for, although not traditionally Norwegian. I got some sandbakkles, which I ate, lefse and Gudbransdalosgt in a store and brought them back to enjoy at home.

              1. re: RevImmigrant

                I love lutefisk & surstromming. I moved from New Mexico to Stavanger, Norway for 5 years. ( I tried using lefsa for tortillas in making enchiladas; a failure.) Here in Maine, there used to be 2 Norsk stores within 1/2 an hour of me, but are now gone. We are having frukost bord mornings for breakfast w/ several kinds of herring and cheeses.
                Riktig God Juul og Godt Nyt Ar!