Food of Iceland: Hangikjöt - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Food of Iceland: Hangikjöt

Food of Iceland: Hangikjöt

Published October 11, 2019

Brought to you by
Sam O'Donnell

Hangikjöt, most famous as an Icelandic Christmas delicacy, is a distinctively-flavoured smoked meat typically made of lamb, but also occasionally horse. Around 90% of Icelanders indulge in the fare during the holiday season, and around the same number likely eat it thinly sliced on a sandwich year-round.

Notably, hangikjöt is traditionally smoked in dung. This is another one of those methods that originally came about to preserve the meat longer, but then stayed around because of its flavour. Much to the lament of coprophages, birch is most commonly used today in the smoking process.

To prepare hangikjöt, a leg of lamb is hung from the rafters of a smokehouse in which a fire burns constantly for two to three weeks. After it has been smoked, the modern, birch-smoked hangikjöt is packaged, either whole or thinly sliced.

The thinly sliced option is a great breakfast item for a Sunday morning, or even a Tuesday afternoon. Just take a piece of flatkaka (icelandic flatbread) and smear it with butter—a lot of butter. Make Julia Child cringe—then, slap a couple of slices of hangikjöt on top and enjoy. Folding is optional, but recommended.

The other way to eat this smokey treat is to slice it straight off the bone, then pair it with potatoes, peas, carrots, and white sauce. That’s the way it is traditionally eaten around Christmas. For an extra bit of holiday spirit, serve with laufabrauð (literally leaf-bread, a.k.a. thin, crispy bread) and a holiday blend of Appelsín and malt.

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