NOT a food blog
Before I had the opportunity to visit Norway, my Norwegian friend, Gard, used to tease me about the food that they ate. “We love to eat smalahove at Christmas,” he would say. Sounds harmless enough, I’d think. “It’s sheep’s head,” he’d add. Fair enough, we eat chopped head here too, cooked in a nice peratal curry. Then he showed me the picture.
ACK!!!! At least have the decency to remove the eyeballs, sir! Okay, I kid. I’m Asian, goddammit, with a stomach made of steel. The wiki definition of smalahove is quite descriptive: The skin and fleece of the head is torched, the brain removed, and the head is salted, sometimes smoked, and dried. The head is boiled for about 3 hours and served with mashed rutabaga and potatoes.
Doesn’t leave much to the imagination, does it?
Bald Eagle has an obsession for high places, and we had tickets to the U2 concert in Oslo in 2005, so off we went to Norway. I learnt an important lesson. When a Norwegian tells you that a particular destination is just a short walk away, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! These guys sleep in their hiking boots and Gore Tex outerwear, so a short walk can mean either a harmless trip to the grocery store down the road OR a 4-hour hike up the mountains. They do come from viking stock, y’know.
Kjeragbolten, a 5 m³ boulder wedged in a mountain crevasse by the edge of the Kjerag mountain (59°2′10.57″N 6°35′31.52″E). It is possible to walk onto the rock without any equipment, but there is a direct 1000 m drop below down to Lysefjorden. The name means “Kjerag Boulder” or “Kjerag Bolt”. (Information taken from Wiki)
Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock, located 604 metres above sea level
These pictures were taken during our visit to Norway in 2005, but the grandeur of the scenery still leaves me breathless.
Acknowledgement: The above photographs are courtesy of my friend, Gard Karlsen, whom I’ve known for a third of my life and who was around when the idea of A Whiff of Lemongrass was mooted.
Thanks to an invitation from the Royal Norwegian Embassy (via Ms Marian Eu of Scribe Media Link…thank you!), FBB, C&C and I had the pleasure of enjoying a meal fit for King Neptune (although, that may seem rather cannibalistic). There was no smalahove in sight, which was a relief, but then again, the words (and smell) were clear – it was the mother of all seafood dinners. Cooked in both Norwegian and Asian styles, the banquet included gravlax, smoked salmon, caviar (capelin, salmon ikura, black lumpfish, red lumpfish), saba mackerel sushi and amaebi, atlantic halibut, salmon sashimi, mustard herring, marinated salmon szechuan style and thai style, salad of crayfish in dill, lemon sole fillet in banana leaf, mussels with sambal, haddock curry, wok-fried king crab leg with salted egg yolk, steamed turbot, barbequed saba with teriyaki sauce, monkfish masala, salmon tandoori…. (gasping for air….inhale…)….oven roasted cod with poached mussels, black olive crusted halibut, Norwegian king crab beurre blanc, herb gratinated Norwegian lobster tails, king crab shisho salsa, grilled langoustine and salsify, foie gras….(gasping for air again…give up give up!)….Also worth noting is that all the seafood (and some of the rather handsome young chefs) was specially brought in from Norway for this dinner.
Chef Frank Naesheim’s seafood dinners have become the annual highlight of the Norwegian business community in Malaysia and Singapore. He has worked in two and three-star Michelin restaurants in France and was chef de cuisine at the Bagatelle in Oslo when it was awarded a Michelin star, the first restaurant in Norway to be honoured this way. Known as the Salmon King in Asia, Naesheim first came to work as executive chef at the Vikings Restaurant in Singapore in 1987. A few years later, he established Snorre Food Pte Ltd, to import quality Norwegian seafood and focused on promoting it in Asia. He launched cooking competitions, focusing on salmon, as part of the Salon Culinaire, a high-profiled Asian culinary event in Singapore. Naesheim’s Salmon King title is well deserved. He has written a cookbook, Norwegian Salmon in Asia, produced recipe booklets for salmon and organised the Salmon Buffet of the Century in Singapore. He has been guest chef in numerous food promotions in Asia and Norway. Naesheim has been serving on the Singapore Bocouse D’or committee since 2000 and is the director of Continental WACS Asia (World Association of Chefs Societies).
Desserts were as breathtaking at the mains. Typical Norwegian desserts that night included the Princess cake, smultringe or small doughnuts, vaflerwaffles with sour cream, Norwegian sweet soup, cardamom coffee cake, sandcake and cloudberry tarts.
The evening was a time for honouring the recipient of the Malaysia Norway Business Council Innovation Award for 2009, DIGI, followed by entertainment by Karoline Kruger, a renowned singer-songwriter and actress in Norway.
And before the night ended, I found a rose on my iPhone. Hmmmmm, mysteries abound in all things Norwegian, eh? (Better a rose than a smalahove, I say.)
Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.