It’s a summer evening in Mexico, the land of tacos and enchiladas, but I’m listening to my favourite (half) Danish band and my mind is wandering not to a bean and cheese filled burrito but to the cuisine of a small Nordic country instead.
Before we dive too deeply into the good and bad of Danish cuisine, let’s start out with one important notice you might not be aware of. The puffy pastry delight that is the ‘Danish pastry’ is not actually Danish at all, it’s Austrian. This fact won’t change your enjoyment of it at all, but if it ever comes up in a pub quiz, then you will thank me.
We could talk about Noma or the many other creative, modern and expensive (nothing in Denmark is cheap) restaurants that fill Copenhagen, but I haven’t eaten in any of them and that’ snot the point of this article anyway.
So, with all of that out of the way, in no particular order, let’s look at some dishes that actually are traditionally Danish…
Potatoes, meat and sausages.
Three cornerstones of Danish cuisine. This is a nation that really likes the potato and really likes bits of animals. Generally cooked in simple ways and then covered in a brown or yellow sauce, but we’ll come back to those in a while. Sausages are everywhere, some are really rather good, and some really aren’t.
These are round balls of pancake like batter that are filled with apple. Sounds wonderful and they can be if they are made with love, sadly most of them are instead made in factories and bought frozen from the supermarket, light on apple (and taste generally) and heavy on batter. When they are good, they are great though.
Mulled wine can never be wrong, wherever it comes from. The Danish version is heavy on orange and lemon peel and often has almonds and raisins added. It’s a good and warming thing to get down you in the deep midwinter.
They are open sandwiches, and they could have anything on the top. The difference between this open sandwich and one that you might find anywhere at all in the world lies in the rye bread at the bottom of it all. Personally I’m a fan but I know it’s a contentious issue.
Umm, they are meatballs. Generally made from pork or a beef/pork mix. There are also fishy varieties. There is no reason why you couldn’t easily whip some up from soya or seitan, though I’ve never seen such a thing actually served in Denmark. They come served alongside the ubiquitous potato and covered in the aforementioned brown or yellow sauce (we will get to those I promise).
This is my very favourite Danish foodstuff, so much so that it is the only one that we’ve ever posted an article about. It’s an amazing summery (thought I can eat it anytime) cold soup made of buttermilk. You can serve it with fruit and little biscuits as you should, or just drink it from the carton as I do.
I don’t know what is in remoulade and I don’t think I really need to. It’s a strange thing that comes in a squeezy bottle like ketchup, it’s yellow and it’s odd. Lots of people seem to like it… I don’t particularly.
Yes, there’s a lot of it, and yes the Danes like it, but I have a personal aversion to herring wherever in the world it comes from and can think of very few things I’d be less happy to put in my mouth. Especially when it is pickled, and even when it is served with vodka (which I do like).
Those coloured sauces
The brown one is made from, actually I really don’t know, something brown presumably, it’s like a kind of thick gravy stuff. Rima hates it, I’m kind of ambiguous, it’s not something that I’d actively choose to eat but it feels kind of right on frikadeller and boiled potatoes.
The yellow one can be served at any time but almost always comes with fishy meatballs. It’s very yellow and contains a lot of parsley. It’s not awful.
A romantic(?) endnote
The Danes also have a dish called Brændende kærlighed, which literally translates as ‘burning love’. Don’t be fooled into expecting something elegant and romantic by the name though, it’s made of chunks of bacon sitting on top of mashed potato.