Lutefisk – it's a traditional Scandinavian dish that no one likes.
The origin of the gelatinous whitefish soaked in lye isn't really known, but it's been around for centuries. Like way back when the Vikings roamed the high seas.
And the process of making lutefisk (more on that in a second) was probably because Scandinavians needed a way to preserve the fish they caught. So, they dried it, and then when it was time to eat it, they had to rehydrate it.
Water alone won't do it. That's where the lye comes in.
Yes, the dried fish is soaked in the stuff you can use to unclog a drain. Appetizing, huh?
Before you eat it, the lye-soaked fish is rinsed for several days to get all those chemicals out. Then it's OK to eat, once you cook it by either boiling it (that's the traditional way), baking it (that's probably the way it tastes the best) or in the microwave (that's how we had to do it).
Before you serve it, make sure you dump a bunch of butter on it.
So why do we still eat it?
This process of preserving cod and other whitefish isn't really needed today. So why do we still eat it?
It all comes down to tradition, and that connection with Scandinavians to their ancestral homes. That's why it's so popular in Minnesota and Wisconsin, NPR says.
It's funny, though, because people in Norway, Sweden and Finland rarely eat the fish – they've pretty much given up the stinky tradition that Americans with Scandinavian heritage cling to at Christmas time, Smithsonian Magazine said.