3 November 2010

Bergen Fish Soup (Bergensk Fiskesuppe) - Recipe

As I look outside the window these days, all I can see are grey sheets of icy rain. The weather in Oslo at this time of year is truly execrable - the mild days of early autumn are well and truly behind us, yet the beautiful snow of winter is yet to arrive. Instead, we live in this cold, windy, and wet limbo.  It is what I like to call 'soup weather'. There's nothing more comforting on days like these than a big bowl of steaming hot soup. It is the culinary equivalent of a chunky woollen jumper or a roaring log fire. I especially like to make soup on those chilly and wet weekends, when you've barely managed to get out of your pyjamas, and it seems like a major achievement to have emptied the dishwasher.

One of my favourite soups is the famous fish soup from Bergen, on the West Coast of Norway. Although the soup originates from Bergen, it is consumed and loved all over Norway, and it seems that everyone has their own version of it. Think of it as Norway's chicken noodle soup - perfect food for warming the soul.

Bergen fish soup is a velvety mix of cream, fish, and root vegetables that is lifted with a touch of sugar and vinegar. The trick with this soup is to taste as you go along to get the right balance of sweetness and sourness. Everyone will have different preferences, so feel free to experiment, but there should be just a subtle sweet-and-sour taste to it. The ultimate quality of the soup, though, is totally reliant on you using really good quality fish stock (preferably homemade from fish trimmings) and impeccably fresh fish - it doesn't really matter what type you use as long as it's not too oily; I think a mix of cod, salmon, halibut, and monkfish works best. Although not strictly traditional, and I haven't here, you could also add a few mussels to the pot 3-4 minutes before the soup has finished cooking. Another little optional extra is to add fish dumplings. Here, I made my own dumplings, but in Norway most fishmongers make their own excellent fiskepudding that you could use instead.

So, why not try making this simple soup - the very essence of the sea - which warms and soothes during these damp, chilly days.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
  • 2 ltrs good quality fish stock
  • 2 carrots, diced into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 small celeriac, diced into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 parsley root (or parsnip), diced into ½-inch cubes
  • 125g cod fillet (skin and bones removed) cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 125g halibut (skin and bones removed) cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 125g salmon (skin and bones removed) cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 125g monkfish tail cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 125g fiskepudding (or homemade fish dumplings. Optional, but see below for recipe)
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 300ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp good quality red wine vinegar (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp sugar (to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • A handful of chopped chives to garnish
  1. Bring the fish stock to boil in a large pot
  2. Add the chopped vegetables and simmer for 5 minutes
  3. Whisk the flour into the cream and add to the soup, and bring to the boil
  4. Add the sugar and the vinegar gradually and taste to get the right balance between sweet and sour
  5. Add the fish and fiskepudding/dumplings and simmer until the fish is just cooked (around 6-7 minutes)
  6. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground white pepper and sprinkle with some finely chopped chives
  7. Serve with lots of crusty white bread to dunk in the soup
For the fish dumplings (optional)
  • 125g cod fillet (skin and bones removed)
  • 1 small egg
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
Blitz all the ingredients in a food processer so that it forms a smooth paste then, using a spoon, form the mixture into small balls and add to the soup just after adding the fish - they should float gently on the surface of the soup.


  1. I love the sound of this. I'm printing it as I write so that I can give it a go. It's definitely soup weather here in Copenhagen too ;-)

  2. oh i got my hands on a great Bergen fish coup from a freind who lives there- When we visited her this summer she took us to a brilliant restaurant and told me to get the fish soup. I did not regret it. This reminds me that I should make it soon! It's soup weather in Germany albeit blue skies and blustery cold days!

  3. @foodytwoshoes Let me know how you get on if you do give it a go. By the way, I love your blog! So nice to read other (English language) Scandi food blogs!

    @Meeta I remember your wonderful posts on Norway from this summer. Was the soup you're describing the same one you had at Bolgen & Moi in Bergen? Never been to that particular one, but will have to visit next time I'm in the area.

  4. Yes it's that exact one. It's in the same building as the Bergen Art Museum. I was told they change their menu regularly so I hope whenever you get to Bergen you find it on the menu.

  5. Thanks for the recipe. We have a similar fish soup here in the Basque Country and I wanted to try the nordic one.

  6. This is by far my favorite soup. Thanks for the recipe!

  7. Made this today in Ottawa where it is cold and blustery this autumn. Was fantastic!

  8. Just found this, which I had asked for earlier. Was raised on this soup in Bergen as a child. Will now be making it in Northern California using wild Alaskan Cod and salmon.

  9. I'm moving from England to Bergen in three weeks time. My Husband is already there and he keeps going on about the fish soup there. I'm not much of a cook but I think I will give this recipe ago.

  10. Have shopped at Jacobs since 1970 when we lived in the neighborhood. Go back there when we are in town. Was nice store back then and keeps getting better.