This will be news to most of you, but my dad recently moved to Denmark for his work, which means I’m going to be spending a lot of time with the Danes! For New Years 2019, I spent two weeks in Lyngby — a small town just north of Copenhagen. Which means I had plenty of time to try traditional Danish foods, as well as the Danish incarnations of many American and International foods…
1. Smørrebrød, my favorite smorgasbord
Smørrebrød literally translates to “buttered bread,” but most Americans will recognize them as open-ended sandwiches (in which the bread is buttered). Smørrebrød can be anything but in my experience usually goes like this: a single piece of tough rye bread (which we’ve established is buttered), atop which sits fish, eggs, or pork, sprinkled with some garnish and flavoring such as onion.
I always get excited for smørrebrød, and it’s not in short supply. I forwent my pescetarian diet while trying traditional Danish food, so I’ve had smørrebrød with ham, salmon, marinated herring, and “fish cake.” All but the marinated herring were delicious, and there are many more picturesque and delicious combinations to try at my local smørrebrød stand. If you’re in Denmark, this is a must-have.
2. Herring is daring
The two main fish that you’ll see all over the greater Copenhagen area are salmon and herring. You can’t really go wrong with salmon, of course, but in my experience the herring was hit and miss. My dad’s company has a lunch buffet that serves a mild curried herring, which I found delicious, but I disliked a marinated herring smørrebrød — though the awesome aesthetic of the smørrebrød (pictured above) almost made up for it.
3. Microbrews to microchoose
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a distinct dislike of the taste of alcohol. Sangria, fine wine, party mixes, dozens of different kinds of beers — I’ve hated them all. At best, alcohol tastes to me like cough syrup. At worst, it tastes like piss that was made from cough syrup.
However, one of our family friends in Denmark works in brewery equipment and keeps up with the local microbrewery scene. She gets free beer from some of her volunteer work, and had us try two microbrews. One, “Hornbeer Beware,” tasted like any other beer to me, though my dad immediately said, “Oh, YUM!”
But the other, “Hornbeer Jubilee,” was the first beer I’ve ever had in my life that didn’t make me want to gag. Thus, it is the best beer I’ve ever tried. I took that as a good sign that other people might like that particular brew.
4. Flæskesteg… I’m not going to try to rhyme with this one
Flæskesteg literally translates to “roast pork,” and that’s basically just what it is. Imagine a normal, white-meat ham with a thin crust of extremely crunchy bacon enveloping it. I found that the crust was very flavorful, but the inside was pretty bland and flaky. It tasted good with some seasoning, but beyond that I wasn’t a fan. It’s mostly eaten during the holiday season, but I don’t think I’ll miss it during the rest of the year.
5. Fish Cakes by the ocean
So I’m going to be honest: I’m not actually sure I ordered the right thing. I asked for the “fiskefrikadelle,” which translates to “fish cake,” but what I received didn’t taste like fish. Imagine cold Thanksgiving stuffing topped with a little bit of cinnamon, all on top of some smørrebrød.
I didn’t like the fiskefrikadelle at first bite, because I was expecting something like crab cakes. But once I got used to the idea that my fish was not going to taste like fish, I liked it well enough.
6. Let’s get that Brød
I didn’t come anywhere near trying every variety of bread that exists in Denmark, but every true Viking who reads this blog is probably going to ask about the rye bread (rugbrød), which typically includes a generous amount of seeds. It’s definitely not bread to eat on its own, but it makes a hardy foundation for smørrebrød.
However, like in many countries I’ve visited, bread in Denmark does not stop at sandwich edges. My personal favorite (meaning the only other one I got the chance to try) was the bread with chocolate chips baked into it.
As you can tell from above, the traditional main courses were not my favorite part of my trip to Denmark. I loved the local salmon, but when is salmon not good? Smørrebrød and curried herring were the only hits, but there are many more things for me to try.
And the Danish food didn’t end with main dishes. Stay tuned…