Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bergen Food Hall and Fish market

Food stories from Bergen

Bergen is a wonderful place to enjoy locally produced food. You have shops and markets you will not find nowhere else in the country, offering fresh, cured and smoked meat products, and cheese and fish caught in the cool seas on the Norwegian west coast.

Kjøttbasaren (Bergen Food hall) is located by the harbour (Vågen) and close to Bryggen. It is unique in a country where five main retailers have taken over most of the market. This has not encouraged local production but left the Norwegian consumers with mass produced low quality food products.

But the tides are turning. At Kjøttbasaren you can buy locally produced cheese as these from the Myrdal farm at Tysnes. Albert Muilwijk and his family, originally from the Netherlands, has settled here, and they produce this delicious cheese from goats milk on their local dairy.

At Kjøttbasaren you will also find an abundance of high quality meat products. Here I found veal, a meat I rarely found in shops in Oslo. I prepared this succulent and extremely tender meat for my nephew and two of his friends.

For those of you that want to bring a culinary memory back with you from Norway, there are a wide variety of products made from sheep or venison.

There is a large population of venison in the Vestlandet and Trøndelag regions, and it is spreading. There are wide range of cured venison meat and sausages for sale at Kjøtthallen.

If you have room in your suitcase you may buy a whole or a chunk of fenalår, a salted and cured leg of lamb. This is usually enjoyed with Norwegian flatbread and sour cream - and a pint of beer. If you are bold, you could try Smalahove, salted and cured sheepshead, with eyes and all.

Kjøtthallen does not only sell meat and cheese. Here you may also buy fresh fish, jam, oils, tea, coffee and much much more.

If you go down to the harbour, you can enjoy the famous Bergen fish market, showing the abundance of life found at the Western coast. The market is more a tourist trap than a place offering fresh and high quality products. In fact there have been several examples of the opposite.

If you are looking for fresh fish, you should go to the other side of the harbour to visit fish monger Erik Sundal at Strandkaien Fisk. I passed his window displaying fresh mussels, peeled crab, whale meat and salted cod.

In 2004 Sundal bought the neighbouring grocery store Kvamme Kolonial & Fetevare, established as far back as 1898. If you did not find anything to buy at Kjøtthallen, try going here.

Sadly these traditional shops are disappearing in Norway as well in Europe and us consumers are left with food wrapped in plastic on the shelves of large super markets. Let us hope that there are enough enthusiasts among us to keep these traditional shops alive. I am an optimist, as food heroes as Albert Muilwijk, provides us with new products based on local ingredients. It is a funny coincidence here. Filipinos at Åndalsnes and Dutch farmers at Tysnes are helping us to rediscover our heritage.

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