Norwegian cuisine primarily focuses on game and fish, resources that are found in abundance in the country's pristine woodlands and surrounding seas. Traditionally meat would feature in every main meal whether it's slow-cured lamb's leg (fenalår) served with vegetables for dinner or smoked salmon (røkt laks) served with scrambled eggs, dill, mustard sauce and bread for lunch. Norway's long winters meant that preserving food was necessary to last the season, which gave rise to a fondness for cured fish (tørrfisk), often eaten at breakfast with lefse, the national flatbread, and Jarlsberg cheese.
Preserved meat and sausages are popular and eaten as part of a spread or served in hearty stews. Norway's meat specialities include moose - said to taste similar to venison, reindeer - wonderfully lean meat, and grouse - tender with a mild gamey taste. These meats grace restaurant menus in autumn when hunting season begins. Often meat is accompanied by potatoes (mashed, boiled or pureed) and a cream-based sauce or thick gravy.
Like elsewhere in Europe, bread is an important staple in the Norwegian diet and tends to be coarse in texture and made with whole grain flour. Rye bread is typically used for open-sandwiches, known locally as smørbrød, a buttered slice of bread topped with a range of ingredients including cheese, caviar, hard boiled egg, herring, pâté, salad leaves, herbs, sliced cucumber, tomato and pickled beets.
Norway's climate and countryside are the ideal environment for wild fruits with strawberries, bilberries, lingonberries, raspberries and apples all particularly intense in flavour and used in desserts and sweet treats such as krumkake - a cross between a waffle and a pancake that's rolled up and filled with whipped cream.
The people of Norway love their coffee, so much so in fact that they are the second highest consumer of coffee in the world. This means you'll find quality barista-style coffee shops in all of Norway's cities and larger towns. As far as alcoholic beverages go, Norway produces a number of pilsners, red beers and malt beers with a rich flavour. With a long history, mjød (mead - a famous honey wine) is a very traditional Scandinavian drink and graces the shelves of many tourist shops though it's not a commonly-drunk beverage.
In recent decades Norway's dining scene has vastly improved with a much better selection of international cuisine and in the larger cities you'll find a respectable choice of dining options. Today, Norwegian chefs lean towards the use of locally produced organic ingredients, creating modern versions of traditional dishes.