Bounty of the sea
Norwegian fiskesuppe gets a nutritional and flavor boost from seaweed
CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
Fiskesuppe (fish soup) is a wonderful dish to celebrate the bounty of the sea, and it’s a true taste of Norwegian tradition. I am excited to share my recipe for fiskesuppe that uses two types of tang og tare (seaweed and kelp).
So let’s talk about seaweed. Norway’s seaweed grows in abundance on its extensive coastline, and Norway has Europe’s largest stock of seaweed, with more than 400 species. Seaweed is rather a misnomer (we wouldn’t call all salad varieties and edible greens “landweed”), and the term encompasses red, brown, and green algae. Seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Seaweed is harvested by hand in Norway and also cultivated on seaweed farms just off the coast. Seaweed is an appealing crop because it flourishes without using additional water, fertilizer, or pesticides.
Norway’s local seaweeds are a tourist attraction, too. Several tourism companies offer a tangsafari (seaweed safari) with a local guide to forage for seaweed, and then they prepare it in different dishes. (I plan to sign up for a tangsafari for the next time I visit Norway!) Recipes are available online as well: Ting Med Tang, a seaweed company in Engelsviken, has a well-rounded recipe section on their website from appetizers to desserts, including a recipe for berry jam that is thickened with seaweed rather than powdered pectin.
Seaweed has many applications beyond a culinary perspective, including cosmetics to pharmaceuticals, fertilizers and organic soil amendments, and animal feed. A recent study published by researchers at the University of California, Davis, shows that a small addition of seaweed into feed for cows can cut methane emissions—a major contributor to climate change—by more than 80%. Not surprisingly, Norway is at the forefront of seaweed research in the world, with the potential of a new industry of cultivating seaweed for bioenergy and other innovations.
But back to fiskesuppe. I don’t have an easily accessible source of Norwegian seaweed to use in my cooking. I could drive down to the beach that’s a few minutes from my house to forage for some kelp, but I wouldn’t do it without an expert guide. So, for this recipe, I use two common types of seaweed that are readily available at U.S. grocery stores: kombu and wakame.
Kombu, also called sea kelp, is a key ingredient in the Japanese soup stock called dashi, which is the backbone of many Japanese dishes. It comes in a package of dried sheets. Just a 20-minute simmer of a piece of kombu in a pot of water will turn into a light yet savory broth full of umami, thanks to its natural glutamates. Kombu can also be added to a pot of simmering beans to make them more digestible! Kombu is inexpensive and can be found in the Asian or international aisle at grocery stores, Asian markets, health-food stores, and online.
Wakame is one of the most popular edible seaweeds in the United States, where it’s found in miso soup and seaweed salad at Japanese restaurants. I keep it on hand in my kitchen, and I add a handful when I make a batch of lacto-fermented sauerkraut for thyroid support. Wakame comes thinly sliced and plumps up with just five minutes of simmering, and brings another layer of umami to the dish.
In addition to the seaweed, this recipe for fiskesuppe calls for common Norwegian ingredients: cod, salmon, mussels, and root vegetables. To keep it dairy-free, I use canned coconut milk rather than cream. The soup comes together in about 30 minutes for an easy weeknight dinner. Serve with good bread and enjoy a taste of the Norwegian sea!
What are your thoughts on Norwegian fiskesuppe? Have you been on a seaweed safari? I’d love to hear from you! Write to me at email@example.com.
Want to know more about Norway’s seaweed industry? Here are a few links:
- SINTEF’s Norwegian Seaweed Technology Center: sintef.no/en/ocean/initiatives/norwegian-seaweed-technology-center
- Ting med Tang (Norwegian only): tingmedtang.no
Fiskesuppe med tang
Fish soup with seaweed
By Christy Olsen Field
1 sheet dried kombu (also called sea kelp)
4 cups water
1 1/2 pounds fresh fish filets of your choice (I did half salmon, half Icelandic cod, but choose what you like best), boneless and skinless
2 tbsps. olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 small celery root, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 small fennel bulb, core removed and thickly sliced (reserve fronds for garnish)
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 tsp. salt
1 cup white wine
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 pound blue mussels, rinsed and picked over
1/2 cup wakame seaweed
Here’s how you make it:
In a small saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the piece of kombu. Reduce to a simmer for 20 mins. Discard the piece of kombu.
Meanwhile, slice the fish into 2-inch pieces.
In a 5-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery root, fennel, leek, and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, and the leek and fennel turn translucent. It’s okay if they pick up a bit of color, but turn down the heat if they start to brown.
Add in the kombu broth and white wine. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to simmer for five minutes to let the flavors meld.
Add in the fish pieces, mussels, wakame seaweed, and coconut milk, cover, and cook for 7–10 minutes until the fish pieces are cooked through and mussel shells have all opened. (If any shells don’t open, discard those.)
Finely chop the reserved fennel fronds and garnish on top. Serve with good bread.
This article originally appeared in the April 23, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.