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Lutefisk: The Norwegian Must-TryMeaning "Lye Fish," this quintessential Norwegian dish is much maligned, as I well know, having much maligned it myself. I'm not the only person to have spoken ill of the dish. Esteemed American author Garrison Keillor describes Lutefisk as "...a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap and gave off an odor that would gag a goat."
The dish became something of a running gag between myself and a Norwegian friend, with many correspondences ending in "When you visit, my mother can cook you lutefisk."
Now heading to Norway, it was time to pay the piper. Naturally I was somewhat nervous come mealtime.
I needn't have been. Yes, Lutefisk is indeed one of a select handful of dishes in the world that is toxic during much of its preparation, but when prepared correctly is surprisingly tasty, even delicate. The Lutefisk I ate was tender, its gelatinous meat a fine textural counterpoint to the crispy bacon bits with which it was served.
Perhaps Ma Hokstad's recipe was toned down in deference to her guest from afar?
Although Lutefisk is traditionally eaten in family homes, there are a few restaurants in Norway renowned for their Lutefisk (many of these require advanced booking). According to Ma Hokstad, the best of these is Gamletorvet Spiseri: http://www.gamletorvetspiseri.no/
Visitors who don't make it as far as Gjøvik can find an Oslo restaurant serving the dish here: http://www.osloby.no/sulten/Guide-til-lutefisk-i-Oslo-7748212.html