Skrei: Norway’s best kept secret
By Jason Holland, SeafoodSource contributing editor reporting from London
Published on 21 March, 2012
While it’s true that European consumers have become more adventurous in their willingness to try exotic seafoods over the last two decades, they remain conservative in their eating and buying habits. However, Norway, the world’s No. 2 seafood exporter behind China, has a trick up its sleeve — the seasonal delicacy known as “skrei.”
Skrei is Norwegian Arctic cod, but it’s a special run of this wandering ocean stock that’s renowned for its lean meat and distinct, delicious taste. It’s also reported to have the highest nutritional value of all cod.
Every year between January and April the Norwegian coastline comes alive for the much anticipated skrei (pronounced “sk-rey”) season, when millions of large, mature fish undertake their annual journey from the Barents Sea back to their spawning grounds that surround Norway’s Lofoten islands. The name “skrei” comes from an old Norse word that means “to move forward or migrate.”
The fish is around five years old when it reaches adulthood and is ready to make this journey. The largest and oldest cod, mainly females, reach the spawning grounds first; the males arrive later and dominate in numbers.
The Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC), the marketing body for Norway’s seafood industry, has high hopes for skrei in European foodservice, particularly as cod is regarded as one of the most exclusive whitefish species by European chefs. There’s also an illustrious history of Norwegian cod being served in Europe’s high-end restaurants.
Karin Olsen, the NSC’s whitefish marketing manager, says skrei markets have been created in Spain, Belgium, Germany and France. In the latter, leading chefs like Michel Roth at The Ritz and Mikael Feval at the Restaurant Antoine, both in Paris, declare themselves “big fans” of skrei, but Olsen points out that the fish can be found on many menus throughout the country.
The next market that the NSC is pitching skrei to is the United Kingdom and the first shipment was due to arrive earlier this year. In something of a coup for the Norwegians, its arrival was preceded by a glowing endorsement from one of the country’s most respected chefs, Michel Roux Jr., who trialed the fish at his two-Michelin-star London restaurant Le Gavroche last year.
“I was very impressed,” says Roux.
This new feature is part of the magazine’s global expansion. Click here to read SeaFood Business Editor and Associate Publisher Fiona Robinson’s March Editor’s Note >