For the fishermen of Tromsø – Norway’s most northerly city – the beginning of the year is non-stop. Despite the freezing temperatures, lack of natural light and rough, unforgiving seas, from January to April these modern day Vikings board their boats and bring ashore as many Skrei as they can catch – a variety of cod that has been the pride of the country for centuries. Alongside chefs such as Michel Roux Jr, Monica Galetti, Robin Gill and Daniel Galmiche, we travelled to the remote area to discover more about the legendary fish.
Skrei (Norwegian for ‘wanderer’) are migratory cod. They travel a thousand kilometres through the turbulent yet pristine Barents Sea every year to spawn off the north Norwegian coast, building up muscle throughout their journey. It’s this muscle that sets them apart from standard cod; the flesh becomes firm and meaty, flaking apart in huge, jagged pieces, while the bright pearlescent flesh turns a dazzling white once cooked. This is why Skrei is almost always served simply; the fresh oceanic flavour, incredible texture and stunning appearance means it’s best served as naturally as possible. Michel Roux Jr doesn’t even cook the fish, choosing to serve it as a finely chopped tartare with a spoonful of caviar on top.
After braving the rough seas and landing some giant, healthy looking fish, local cooks showed the group how Skrei is enjoyed in Tromsø. Every single part of the fish is used – tongues are dusted in seasoned flour and fried; roe is lightly simmered and the liver is reserved for its oil, which contains plenty of much-needed vitamin D.