From Iceland — A Taste Of The Ocean, Streetside

A Taste Of The Ocean, Streetside

Larissa Kyzer
Words by
Photo by
Magnús Elvar Jónsson

Published June 25, 2014

Lobster Hut

On the corner of Hverfisgata and Lækjargata
What we think
Harbour-fresh with a kick.
Icelandic Beach Picnic.
At nature's discretion.
Quick, but sociable.
Price for 2 (no drinks)
2,200 - 3,100 ISK

Street food, as you might expect, has not traditionally been a big thing in Iceland. In a country without an abundant amount of foot traffic (at least among locals) and in which 10° C constitutes a warm day, the idea of sidling up to a truck and ordering something to eat al fresco doesn’t immediately appeal. Weekend evenings (and very early mornings) do typically see a circle of wagons serving up hot waffles and burgers to the soon-to-be-hungover, and Prikið’s diner-on-wheels has made popular, though unpredictable, circuits downtown. And, it goes without saying that no matter the time of day or the weather, there’s generally a queue in front of the Bæjarins Beztu hot dog stand (if it’s raining, people take their pylsur back to their cars to eat). But it’s only within the last year or so that street food has really taken root in Reykjavík, and daytime food trucks with more diverse menus have started establishing themselves around town.

Roughly two weeks ago—just days before The Soup Wagon opened just down the street—The Lobster Hut took up residence on the corner of Hverfisgata and Lækjargata, serving up lobster soup and sandwiches to passers-by eager for the opportunity to sample inexpensive local seafood. The truck is owned, managed, and staffed by Fjóla Sigurðardóttir, who was inspired by the cocktail vans and beverage carts she enjoyed in Thailand in 2010. A drink cart wouldn’t be legal here, so she decided to take a different approach. “I wanted to do something really Icelandic,” she told local paper DV.

And so she has. For although kjötsúpa, or “meat soup,” is thought of as the quintessential Icelandic soup, humarsúpa (“lobster soup”) also makes frequent menu appearances around the country. But before we go any further, please note: Icelandic ‘lobster’ is actually langoustine—the thinner, smaller, orangey-pink cousin of the lobster. The flavour of langoustine meat is pretty darn close to lobster, with a texture that is a touch firmer, like shrimp. But these aren’t your dog-size Maine or rock lobsters, so adjust your expectations accordingly. My companion and I arrived on a late weekday afternoon when the sun was shining and a light, salty breeze was blowing over from the harbour—a perfect day for lobster. Fjóla greeted us cheerfully and suggested we each try a bowl of soup (1,200 ISK) and half a lobster sandwich (1,000 ISK), which suited us both fine. We chatted while she grilled up the langoustine for our sandwiches on the griddle, and dished up our Styrofoam bowls of soup, noting that she settled on her recipe pretty quickly: “It’s best to serve food that you like to eat yourself.”

Recipes for humarsúpa vary, but it’s usually a thinner sort of bisque, an often sweetish seafood broth to which a little cream (or coconut milk) has been added. At Christmastime, I’m told, most chefs will add a celebratory tot of cognac as well. A good version of the dish will include several nice-size chunks of langoustine—sometimes accompanied by small pieces of celery or maybe a little bell pepper or carrot—although it’s not typically a very hearty soup.

While fitting this basic pattern, The Lobster Hut’s broth is actually more savoury than many local lobster soups, making for an appreciated change. Utilising both curry and chilli pepper, it also has a subtle kick to it. “You can feel it in your throat,” Fjóla says. There’s not a lot of additional filler—just a healthy dose of langoustine that has that nice freshly-grilled crispiness on the outside.

By itself, the soup would be suitable for a light meal, but if you’re reasonably hungry, opting for the added half lobster sandwich is a good choice. Again: please don’t think of this as your classic, East Coast lobster roll. It’s just not and you will be unreasonably disappointed. Rather, like the soup, The Lobster Hut’s sandwich also shows shades of its creator’s culinary leanings—that’s to say, a bit of a kick (or a crunch) for the finish.

Fjóla’s lobster sandwich consists of a toasted roll, a lightly-dressed (mayo’ed) salad of lettuce and red pepper, and a topping of crushed tortilla chips (universally referred to by Icelanders as “nachos”). She admits that the nachos catch a lot of people off guard, but she likes the texture that they add. I was a bit sceptical myself, as Icelandic dishes seem to incorporate chips a bit overzealously—I once took a bite of a lovely dinner salad at an upscale restaurant only to find that Doritos had been crumbled into the fresh greens (not good). But the chips really do work here. Where your traditional lobster roll can get a big soggy and bogged down in mayo, this sandwich is rather light by comparison. You can really taste the langoustine, since it hasn’t been drowned in sauce, and its savouriness plays nicely off the sweetness of the red pepper. The chips just add a little playful crunch at the end.

Though it’s still early to say, Fjóla has plans to continue serve over the fall and winter and is particularly looking forward to the Iceland Airwaves crowd. With all these new food trucks about, they’re sure to be well fed.

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