Giant Chocolate Bars
Let's start with the good stuff. My favorite kind of Norwegian confection: 200 gram (7-ounce) chocolate bars. I guess you're supposed to share them; sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Freia is Norway's most famous chocolate brand, and their creamy, sweet, milk chocolate Melkesjokolade is the most popular chocolate in Norway, featuring the tagline, "A little piece of Norway."
But my favorite is Walters Mandler, a base of milk chocolate studded with chopped caramelized, salted, roasted almonds. It's the salt that really makes this bar stand out. ...Along with the caramelized almonds. ...And the chocolate. The other chocolate bar by Walter Huber, who's worked at Freia since 1971, is Walters No. 156 featuring caramelized pecans with a hint of chili pepper. It's good and leaves a very slight bit of heat at the back of your throat, but doesn't beat the almond bar.
Another winner on the salt front is the Kvikk Lunsj bar featuring bits of crisp and light Kvikk Lunsj wafers (more on those soon) sprinkled with sea salt. Salt is melkesjokolade's friend.
You can't talk about Norwegian candy without mentioning the iconic, over 70-year-old Kvikk Lunsj by Freia. Heck, I've already written a whole post about it. The short story: They're like Norwegian Kit Kat bars, but taste better than Kit Kats (in my probably biased opinion). The slightly longer story: Kvikk Lunsj's (Quick Lunch) identity is tied to the outdoors—more specifically, being active outdoors and bringing Kvikk Lunsj for a snack. Kvikk Lunsj's website, wrapper, and commercials all feature the great outdoors. Longer story: Read my post.
Nidar's Smash is on another level of awesome. Like Walters Mandler and the Kvikk Lunsj chocolate bar, it combines chocolate, salt, and crunch, but with less chocolate, and more salt and crunch. It's basically Bugles covered in chocolate. I have no idea why such a snack isn't more popular here—it's damn tasty. Even our intern Will, who doesn't like chocolate, liked it. If I lived in Norway I'd eat buckets of this.
Freia introduced Mandelstang (almond bar) in 1897. It's a simple bar of fondant covered in dark chocolate and crushed almonds. The chocolate and almonds balance out the fondant quite well.
Japp is made of caramel and chocolate nougat coated in chocolate. It looks like a Mars (or Milk Way) bar; even the packaging is almost identical to that of a Mars bar. Freia released it in 1949, but it came out in Sweden in 1947 by Freia's Swedish sister company, Marabou. The name was taken from the American slang for the Japanese during World War II, but they changed the final "s" to a "p." (As for why they thought it was a fitting name, I have no idea.)
Lohengrin is made of dark chocolate filled with rum cream. This chocolate by Freia dates back to 1911, when it was sold at the National Theater at the premiere of the opera Lohengrin. The rose at each end of the chocolate was styled after Art Noveau and Norwegian dragon style; today it's a simplified version of the original design. I found that the combination of dark chocolate and rum is geared towards more adult tastes than mine.
Hobby is made of a light foamy marshmallow-y layer topped with a thin layer of banana-flavored jelly, all coated in a thin layer of chocolate. Nidar released it in 1973. Intern Shell loved it, while intern Haley hated it. I felt indifferent; I couldn't really get into the foam and jelly combination.
Gullbrød ("gold bread") is a slightly flattened log of marzipan coated in a thin layer of chocolate—good if you want to eat a heck of a lot of not too sweet marzipan with a hint of chocolate. Its simplicity makes sense when you find out it's Nidar's oldest chocolate bar, released in 1915.
Non-Stop looks like flatter M&Ms (or Smarties), but has one big difference: The candy coating is fruit-flavored (fruit-flavored vitamins for kids comes to mind), with six different colors and flavors in all. "They're like if Skittles and M&Ms had a baby," said Kenji. Another difference from M&Ms is that the chocolate isn't as sweet. I wasn't very into them at first, but after snacking my way through the 250 gram bag, I've grown to like them.
Bamsemums (which roughly translates to "bear snacks") are chubby bear-shaped marshmallowy candies coated in a thin layer of chocolate. I was surprised to find that I really like this one. It has a nice balance of soft and slightly chewy, creamy foamy stuff to chocolate, and it's not too sweet.
Smil are caramel-filled Freia chocolate nubs. I found them too sweet and I didn't like the caramel that much, unfortunate since I generally like Freia chocolate.
Dunder Salt sort of tastes what it looks like: poisonous moldy-green pebbles. With extra salt.
You'll have no trouble finding it in Norway or Sweden, though. A rough survey of some Norwegian and Swedish friends told me that people actually enjoy it, but to my weak American palate (and the palates of our interns), Dunder Salt tastes like salty poison. The ingredients in this unforgettable candy: sugar, glucose syrup, licorice, ammonium chloride, color E153. Ammonium chloride, or sal ammoniac, is where the name "salmiak" for salty licorice comes from.
The candy company responsible for Dunder Salt, Troll-Gott, is based in Årjäng, Sweden, where you'll find the Årjängtroll, the real statue on which Dunder Salt's package is based on. According to arvikakommun.se (official website of the municipality of Arvika), the statue was inspired by a song called "Årjängtroll" and the platform between the troll's hands is used as a performance space.
I like the troll. But I can't get behind this candy.
(Troll-Gott also makes a candy called Dunder Mix that's fruit-flavored instead of salty.)
The good thing about Dunder Salt: no other licorice candy tastes as bad. Not that I like Salt Sild ("Salt Herring"), a chewy-tacky fish-shaped licorice jelly candy coated in ammonium chloride. To my taste buds, the ammonium chloride kills any of the sugar in the candy and just mixes with the licorice flavor, the result of which makes me feel gag-y.
This vaguely boat-shaped licorice gummy candy made by Nidar since 1983 isn't nearly as offensive as the previous two due to the lack of salt. Now that I'm eating it right after the Salt Sild, I actually...like this candy. And I don't like licorice; it's just such a thankful change. I can actually taste the sugar (although overall, it's not that sweet) and the licorice flavor is pretty mild. I like that the texture is a bit bouncy and isn't sticky, although Will commented the consistency reminded him of snail, perhaps not the most shining compliment.
IFA Salt Lakris
It's salty, but not as offensive to my salty licorice-sensitive taste buds as the Salt Sild. IFA licorice has been made since 1930, changing companies a few times over the years, now made by Nidar. It's named after Ivar F. Andresen, a famous Norwegian opera singer from the early 1900s, whose face and signature grace the front of the box. The back of the box features a quote from Andresen:
"Among its most efficacious properties is first and foremost this: that is prevents dryness of the throat and larynx. I can most heartily recommend this pastille to singers, orators, smokers and sportsmen."
Unlike the Salt Sild and the Dunder Salt, this one actually has salt as an ingredient, in addition to ammonium chloride. But no fear; they also make a straight-up ammonia-enhanced salmiakk version, along with fruit flavored ones.
Ahlgrens Bilar (Ahlgrens Cars) is a marshmallow-esque, foamy, chewy, car-shaped candy made in Sweden since 1953 that touts itself as "Sweden's most popular car." Even though it doesn't necessarily taste great, its texture is pleasant and it's not that sweet, meaning that you can eat a ton of these without thinking about it (I speak from experience). Other varieties include sour, salty licorice, and chocolate-coated.
Zoo is sort of like Swedish fish, but shaped like sitting monkeys, and tastes worse. The bubblegum-flavored candy from Swedish company Malaco tastes sort of stale even when it's not (it's a mix of hard and soft), and It isn't all that pleasant to chew since it doesn't have a gummy bounce to it.
Fox Citron: Malaco's description of Fox translates to, "Lovely caramel with fresh lemon flavor." I wouldn't say it tastes much like caramel (although it tastes perfectly fine); it's more like a very soft lemon-flavored taffy. Malaco's site also says the candy was first made in Norway in 1935.
Update: I found out the "caramel" description was a translation error; the word "kola" designates a chewy caramel-like consistency.
Made by Nidar since 1965, Laban Seigmenn (Laban jelly men) are sugar-coated, fruit-flavored, sort of stick figure-shaped gummies that have a light and softly chewy-bouncy texture, and isn't too sweet nor sticks to your teeth. The candy uses natural colors and flavors. Overall it was one of our favorite Norwegian candies. Other versions include a female version, Fruktige Seigdamer (how to make candy female: add breasts), a sour version, Sure Skrikerunger, and a salty licorice version, Salte Rockere.
Smørbukk is a caramel candy made by Nidar since 1935. The name translates to "butterram," which in Norwegian means someone who really likes butter. It's named after a Norwegian fairy tale character with the same name, known as Butterball in English, who is given the name Smørbukk because he eats too much. Unfortunately, our batch of caramels tasted a bit stale, I'm guessing because we waited too long to eat it.
Brynild's Gomp comes in Fruktpastiller (fruit pastilles) and Skogsbær (Wild Berry). The fruit pastilles are jelly beans with fruit flavors that...I couldn't really recognize. They're not as good as Jelly Belly, basically. The Wild Berry fared better, consisting of tiny gummies coated in a Nerds-esque candy shell. Each box features Gomp's chicken mascot doing different activities (examples: roller skating, hiking, being a masked superhero, working on a computer—you know, the usual Norwegian chicken things).
Dent's small throat lozenges have been on the market since 1975. The eucalyptus flavor is like mouthwash, which may or may not be refreshing to you. I had more trouble with the unfamiliar texture: sort of gummy-ish, but not chewy. (I imagine it's what the texture of clear sticky pads might be like.) Its hardiness makes sense for something meant to be sucked on, but I can't help but want to chew it.
I couldn't find much information about Brynild's Gul Kamfer (yellow camphor) throat drops, but I'll take the word of my Norwegian friends that it's a very old Norwegian candy. It tastes like nasal-clearing peppermint.
I saved the chocolate-covered buttery almond toffee bar Daim (pronounced "dime") for last not for lack of affinity, but simply because...I forgot about it being a Norwegian favorite (it wasn't part of our taste test), thinking of it mostly as "that candy bar I buy when I'm at IKEA." It was developed in Sweden in 1952—and today all Daim bars are made in Sweden by Marabou—but has been available in Norway and Sweden since 1953 and is very popular in Norway. Daim was developed from the American Heath bar, which was released in 1928. Hershey's Skor bar is similar to Daim and Heath bars. (As for why Hershey makes two bars that are almost the same, it's because they made Skor as a competitor to Health before buying the company that made Heath.) I have yet to try all three side-by-side though; perhaps a taste test is in order? Yes, yes it is.
2. A Guide to Norwegian (and Some Swedish) Candy
Check out our overview of popular Norwegian (and some Swedish; there's candy overlap between these neighboring countries) chewy candies, hard candies, chocolate bars, chocolate not-bars, and licorice from major candy companies Freia, Nidar, and Brynild Gruppen.