I remember our conversation very well. After a talk I gave at the local photography club, the group sat down on a long table to chat over coffee. Our discussions about local food traditions led to rakfisk, quite naturally as it was the late autumn and the start of rakfisk season. One gentleman told me about his childhood memories of cooking the fermented fish in home-brewed beer sweetened with syrup. Each family member would take a piece of lefse, wrap the rakfisk inside, and then dip it into the sauce the rakfisk had cooked in. I was so intrigued, trying to wrap my mind around cooking rakfisk, which up until then I had envisioned only as something you serve as is, and started scribbling down notes to remember.
Forward to today and I knew I had to finally make this dish that is part of our local culture here in Numedal. It could not be simpler; gently cook the rakfisk in the beer and syrup mixture, cook down the sauce and then serve in lefse. The taste was unexpected. The saltiness from the rakfisk blends into the sweetness of the syrup and maltiness of the beer. What you get is almost reminiscent of a teriyaki sauce. Thick, rich, and full of umami.
You could try making this at home with thick cuts of cured trout or salmon if you can’t access rakfisk. It will be a good start until you can get your hands on the real thing.
Rakfisk Cooked in Beer (rakfisk kokt i øl)
- 2 cups (480 ml) dark beer
- ½ cup (120 ml) light Norwegian syrup/Lyle’s Golden syrup (substitute with honey)
- 14 ounces (400 g) boneless rakfisk filets, cut into bite-size pieces
- Lefser “soft flatbreads”, to serve
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, bring the beer and syrup to a simmer. Add the rakfisk pieces and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer the rakfisk to a dish and cover. Increase the temperature to medium-high and continue cooking the sauce for 10 to 15 minutes or until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and stir in the rakfisk. To serve, place the rakfisk pieces in lefser/soft flatbreads, roll them up, and dip them into the sauce.