You know that feeling of arriving in a new country, and all the impressions overwhelm you; the smell, the view, the people, the temperature, the sound. The hunger soon hits you, and you’re ready to sit down on a sideway café with a cold Carlsberg and a nice Danish lunch, but what it that?? What is that smell? What is that taste? Is it even meant for human consumption? Yes it is, indeed it is. The Danish cuisine has gotten a revival the last couple of years with amazing food from the somewhat famous chef’s René Redzepi and Claus Meyer, to name a few. More restaurants are focusing on the Danish and Nordic kitchen, with great success, and more restaurants are receiving Michelin stars. The food alone is definitely worth a visit to Denmark. However, our taste buds may be slightly different than yours, and there are definitely some foods that you will either grow to love or to hate. That’s part of the charm, I would say. Here are 7 of the foods we eat that you might find strange, and maybe even a little gross.
If you have been in Denmark during Christmas, you have definitely met this one. Herring is an essential part of the Danish Christmas lunch. It is basically raw fish marinated in sweet and sour pickle and you put it on rye bread with a spoonful of curry-salad on top. It comes in different variations, but the most popular one is curry-herring. Herring is not just a Christmas food, but is also essential at Easter lunch, supplemented by eggs in all shapes and sizes. Many Danes also enjoy it for lunch in the normal weekdays, and if you really want to go full on Danish, it needs to be accompanied by schnapps and a cold beer. If you can eat a lunch like that you are well on your way to become fully integrated. Welcome!
Licorice is the go-to candy for most Danes. We eat it on Fridays when watching a movie, we eat it during snack-time, we eat it when we have the munchies, we eat it as breath mints, we eat it on ice cream, we eat it in cakes, we eat it in chocolate, we drink it and so on. We love our licorice, like REALLY LOVE IT! So whenever people try to talk smack about our favorite candy, there will be a public outcry. Licorice comes in a sweet and salty version, and in all shapes and sizes. If you want to try it (and you should), go for the Skippermix from Haribo, or if you’re chickening out a little, start out with the amazing fusion of chocolate and licorice from Lakrids By Bülow. But beware: Check your teeth after eating it. Licorice tends to stick to the teeth and will make you look like a retired boxer.
No it is not cream puffs, and no it is not cream balls. Flødeboller is something very unique. These last couple of years it has gotten quite the revival with bakeries, chocolate stores and luxury brands taking a spin on the old recipe, and selling it with great success. Flødeboller is basically whipped egg white and sugar, covered by a thin layer of chocolate with a waffle on the bottom. There’s a great variety of toppings, such as coconut, coffee, dries raspberries, and of course licorice. The newer versions also comes with a marzipan bottom. Don’t knock it ’till you try it; it’s like eating a tiny piece of heaven. But beware: They will give you some extra junk in the trunk.
The most essential part of the Christmas- and Easter lunch, is schnapps. Schnapps is like a bitter, and you should only drink a shot at a time – put away those long drink glasses! Schnapps goes with fish (herring) and with pork, well basically with everything, if you ask a Dane. The taste is very bitter, but there are many different varieties and you can even make your own, using berries (or licorice?). However the old-style schnapps like Aalborg Taffel, Linie Aquavit or Brøndum are the ones to buy, if you want to impress a Dane. And you will impress, believe me. In my opinion schnapps is the most disgusting thing to drink, but it is an absolute necessity in the Danish cuisine. Beware: Drink with moderation. This WILL get you drunk, and it WILL give you the worst headache of your life, if you overdo it.
If you ever visit a Danish greenhouse, you will definitely see parsley growing. If you go to a Christmas lunch at a Danes house, you will see dill on the table. If you’re invited for Easter lunch at you Danish friend’s family, you will see cress on the eggs. These three green herbs are an essential part of Danish cuisine and we use it both as garnish and to add flavor to our dishes. The taste of the three is very different, and we use it for different dishes, but what they do have in common is their taste which is like nothing else. It’s impossible to describe, you have to try it. In fact, why not grow your own? Cress is insanely easy to grow and if you have a child in kindergarten, you will definitely be gifted with a cut up milk carton in the shape of a hare with cress growing inside, around Easter time.
It is kind of like paté, and it’s kind of not. Leverpostej is made of boiled and minced pig liver and pig lard, with onions and flour. Just like herring, this is essential at the Danish Christmas lunch, and is best served warm from the oven. It is to be eaten on top of rye bread with bacon, mushrooms or pickled beetroot on top. It is a crazy popular topping in the Danish lunch boxes, and children as well as grown-ups eat it on a regular basis. There are many varieties, and it comes in different price ranges. If you want to try it, I recommend you start out with the freshly made kind you buy from the local butcher rather than buying the cheap kind from the supermarket. If you do not eat pork, there’s also a version made out of chicken, which you can buy in the bigger supermarkets.
Last but not least we have tarteletter, not to be confused with tartlets. Tarteletter is basically a small bowl made out of puff pastry with a filling of chicken and asparagus sauce. It is a classic Danish dish and you will see it on the menu in old-style Danish restaurants and cafes. We also eat it at bigger family events for dinner, especially if we’ve had a big lunch earlier. It’s quite heavy so even though the portions may seem small, you will probably only eat two or three of them – no judgements if you eat more!