Gravlax or graved salmon is a Nordic dish consisting of salmon that is cured using a mix of salt and sugar, and either dill or sprucetwigs placed on top, and may occasionally be cold-smoked afterwards. Gravlax is usually served as an appetizer, sliced thinly and accompanied by hovmästarsås (literally "maitre d'hôtel sauce", also known in Sweden as gravlaxsås, in Norway as sennepssaus, literally “mustard sauce”, in Denmark as rævesovs, literally "fox sauce", and in Iceland as graflaxsósa), a dill and mustard sauce, either on bread or with boiled potatoes.
The word gravlax comes from the Northern Germanic word gräva/grave ("to dig"; modern sense "to cure (fish)") which goes back to the Proto-Germanic*grabą, *grabō ("hole in the ground; ditch, trench; grave") and the Indo-European root *ghrebh- "to dig, to scratch, to scrape", and lax/laks, "salmon".
During the Middle Ages, gravlax was made by fishermen, who salted the salmon and lightly fermented it by burying it in the sand above the high-tide line.
Fermentation is no longer used in the production process. Instead the salmon is "buried" in a dry marinade of salt, sugar, and dill, and cured for between twelve hours and a few days. As the salmon cures, by the action of osmosis, the moisture turns the dry cure into a highly concentrated brine, which can be used in Scandinavian cooking as part of a sauce. This same method of curing can be employed for any fatty fish, but salmon is the most commonly used.