Ishavsrøye, or Arctic Char with Cabbage and Potatoes 

Ishavsrøye, or Arctic Char with Cabbage and Potatoes 

Sometimes the best meals are those that are the simplest and come together quickly. Even if you can’t pronounce them.

My family recently visited Bergen, Norway and ate at a small restaurant called Bryggeloftet & Stuene. It was open late, we were hungry, and we weren’t expecting much, figuring it would be a tourist trap. But it was the best meal of the whole trip. And especially the ishavsrøye.

Ishavsrøye, or Arctic char, is an oily pink fleshed native to cold Northern waters. Oily fish are great sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids; many of us can use more of these in our diets. The taste of this fish is mild and sweet, the texture light and flakey.

In the US, Arctic char is often found farmed. While I highly recommend wild caught fish in general, in this one instance I make an exception provided the farmed char is grown in Iceland, where people are concerned with health and the environment. Such fish can be found at Whole Foods: The farmed Arctic char that they carry is from the hatcheries and farms run by Samherji, a fishing corporation. While Samherji states on their website that they do vaccine their fish [1], they do not use antibiotics or pesticides, they do not harm animals that prey on the fish, they do not use food coloring in their feed, and they raise their fish in land-based tanks that use natural spring water [2]. You can read more about their practices here and decide for yourself if you are comfortable with Icelandic farmed Arctic char being a very occasional treat.

You can substitute wild salmon for Arctic char, however, wild salmon has a much stronger flavor.

Regardless of the fish you choose, just make sure it’s still on the skin.

But back to the meal. The preparation of the char left the fish delicate and flaky, but filling. The capers added a brininess not characteristic of char, while the caramelized cabbage and carrots and copious quantities of butter added richness and layers of subtly sweet tones in each bite.


I’ve recreated the dish, deviating with only a few minor additions to what I tasted originally: I added sliced onions, increased the amount of capers, mixed olive oil with the butter, and shredded the carrots instead of julienned to save a ton of time. For the potatoes, I repurposed some that I had boiled earlier in the week by simply slicing and frying them with the fish. If you only have raw potatoes, your possibilities are endless: slice and fry, boil and salt, chop and roast with oil and garlic, grate for pancakes, etc.

If you are following a paleo diet, simply swap out the butter for olive oil. Ghee can also be used instead of butter and olive oil, however, part of the beautiful flavor in this dish comes from browned butter, which is a simple way to say, “caramelize those milk sugars.” This has been strained out of ghee.

I hope your family enjoys the ishavsrøye with cabbage and potatoes as much as mine did!!


Ishavsrøye, or Artic Char with Cabbage and Potatoes 

Yield: 2 servings

Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 25-50 mins (depending on potatoes)


2-3 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes
~8-10 oz Arctic char fillet, skin left on, thawed
1 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp butter, divided (feel free to use at least double this amount to create a brown butter sauce)
1/4 head green cabbage, cored, thinly shredded
1 medium sized carrot, shredded
1/4 yellow onion, sliced thinly
2 tbsp drained capers
Filtered water, as needed
sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper


1. If potatoes are raw, prepare any way you choose. If you would like to boil and then fry them, place whole raw potatoes in a saucepan filled with cool water and several pinches salt. Cover and bring to a low boil, with small bubbles. Cook until potatoes can be pierced with a knife or fork, around 15 minutes, drain, and set aside to cool.
2. While potatoes are cooking, take the fish out of the refrigerator and rest on the counter to allow to come to room temperature, no more than 30 minutes.
3. Slice cooked, cooled potatoes into 1/4″ thick rounds and set aside.
4. Prepare the vegetables: In a large saucepan over low-medium heat, melt at least 1 tbsp butter (I use 2 tbsp) and allow it to start to brown but not burn. It will smell slightly nutty. Add the olive oil, followed by the cabbage, carrot, onion, and 1/2 tsp salt. Every few minutes, toss the vegetables with tongs. The vegetables should wilt, and the cabbage should start to very slowly brown. If the cabbage begins to brown very quickly, lower your heat. You want a brown coating (called a “fond”) to develop on the bottom of the pan while the vegetables cook down. (If you are only using olive oil, this will not happen; skip adding water next.) Once the onions and carrots are soft and the cabbage is browned, add 1-2 tbsp water. Scrape off the fond with a wooden spoon. Remove cabbage from heat and keep warm.
5. While the vegetables are sautéing, cook the fish: In another large skillet over low-medium, heat remaining oil and butter.  When the pan is hot, place the fish skin-side down into the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange boiled potato slices around the fish in the butter-oil mixture. If you need to, add another 1-2 Tbsp butter or oil to the pan. Cover the pan and allow to cook. After about 5 minutes, add the capers to the butter and return cover. The fish is done when it becomes opaque and flaky; internal temperature will be 145°F.
6. Arrange cabbage in a heap on each plate. Split the fish in half and place a piece over the cabbage. Arrange the potatoes around the plates, then pour the remaining butter and capers as a sauce over the fish.



2 thoughts on “Ishavsrøye, or Arctic Char with Cabbage and Potatoes ”

  • This came out deliciously, even tho i didn’t follow the recipe faithfully (accidentally didn’t let butter brown first, substituted purple cabbage for green, celery for onion, and pickled ginger for capers; also sprinkled celery seed and snipped lovage over the cabbage before plating). I also prepared the potatoes as described, and I’m so glad i did! Thank you for sharing your Iceland- inspired dish 🙂

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and sharing your experience! I think your modifications sound lovely, and I’m excited to try them next time I go to make this dish!

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