Like any good Icelander, I love liquorice! Even though I wasn’t brought up in Iceland, every summer I would be shipped off to the motherland where I would stuff my face with sweets. More than 75% of the candy on offer in Iceland contains some sort of liquorice, meaning my fondness for this soft, salty and sweet divisive treat came early. It’s still going strong to this day.
Why do Icelanders love it so much? Because it’s actually high-quality, good liquorice.
The only liquorice I was exposed to in the UK is the poor excuse for ‘liquorice’ that you receive as part of the quintessentially British ‘Sherbert Fountain’, a product that is basically powdered sugar intended to be devoured with a ‘liquorice’ stick. I would consume the sugary implement only as much as necessary to shovel sugar into my face, rather than for the ‘liquorice’ itself. Why? Because it was cheap, tough and tasteless.
My theory on why people don’t like liquorice—apart from simply being crazy—is that they haven’t tried the good stuff. Give Icelandic liquorice a chance and you might be sweetly surprised.
When it comes to carbohydrates, Icelanders really know what they are doing; the national obsession with all things sweet has led to a form of mastery in the native production of chocolates, cakes, pastries, and not least, candy.
Saturdays in Iceland are called Nammidagur (‘Candy Day’) and Icelanders across the country enjoy a 50% discount off assorted ‘Pick ‘n’ mix’ sweets. Supermarket sweetie isles often resemble a post-apocalyptic dash for the last remaining food stores before zombies take over—Nammidagur is that popular!
It is within these isles that you will find liquorice in all of its forms; salty, sweet, sour, dipped in chocolate, sugar-coated and sometimes even sour or astringent to an eye-watering degree. The list is endless and I would argue there is a liquorice variety for every palate. The trick is to shed any preconception you might already have of the candy and succumb to the delight that waits in store.
Why not explore more Icelandic food on this Reykjavík Food Walking Tour!
I cannot speak for my colleague, who swears he has tasted many different varieties but still proclaims not to enjoy liquorice in any of its forms. I’ll choose to lump him in the crazy category. Moving on…
Personally, I do not like every variation of the candy from, but once you find what you’re into, you’ll be hooked. I’d like to introduce you liquorice novices to some of the varieties that might sway you towards a life sweeter than the one you currently endure. Sure, ignorance is bliss, but so is liquorice!
In my experience, I have found the delicious candy bar, Þristur, to be an effective gateway confectionary into the controversial world of liquorice. The bright yellow-packaged bar holds a sweet surprise inside, namely small liquorice pieces embedded in a caramel nougat, all coated in delicious milk chocolate.
On my trips back to old Blighty, I pack several bags of Þristur for the hopeless addicts I have left in my wake. Try at your own risk, your world might never be the same again.
Draumur (‘Dream’) is another candy bar in which this salty-sweet black gold is tempered by delightful milk chocolate, providing somewhat of an easy introduction to Iceland’s pride and joy.
Perhaps you are ready to fully embrace Icelandic liquorice, in which case Lakkrísreimar (‘Liquorice laces’) might be for you. A national favourite, these liquorice strings are filled with a very sweet and delectable coconut/marzipan concoction—although it is far from the strong almond flavours commonly found in marzipan elsewhere.
If you find yourself won over by Lakkrísreimar, you might also find yourself tempted by Stjörnurúllur, which is basically the same thing, but in a roll with a greater ratio of ‘marzipan’ to liquorice.
Do you consider yourself somewhat adventurous? Why not try ‘Ópal’, one of the most beloved Icelandic treats. Heavy in salmiak liquorice flavour, this almost menthol sweet serves for many an Icelander as a substitute for gum or breath mint, as well as having the extra benefit of clearing the sinuses (an attribute greatly valued in a climate ever-threatening to give you the sniffles).
There’s no denying that liquorice is a strong candy so brace your taste buds and toughen up and you might be pleasantly surprised!
Do you like Icelandic liquorice? Do you have a particular favourite that’s not mentioned here? After reading this article, are you willing to give it a try? Be sure to leave your comments and questions in the comment box below!
Picture Credits: www.nammi.is