Written by root. Posted in FEATURES


Published on July 04, 2019 with No Comments

Smørrebrød: a sandwich of Scandinavian sensibilities.



Bread is a very important part of the Scandinavian table. Based primarily on rugbrød, this sourdough rye bread is a dark, heavy bread that forms the basis of smørrebrød (pronounced smuhr-broht), the Danish open-faced sandwich. Smørrebrød dates back to the 19th century when, for many agricultural workers, lunch was the main meal of the day. It began when bread was used to wipe the plates clean of any remaining food; eventually the food was placed on the bread instead as topping.

Smørrebrød (literally “butter bread”), is a daily staple for many Danes, and a truly classic taste of the nation’s traditional cuisine. Considered a great way to use any leftovers in the fridge, smørrebrød can have an almost limitless number of different toppings. More recently, this nation’s traditional cuisine has been given a revival and become a trendy lunch, especially for young Danes today. While toppings can include anything from herring to raw beef to seafood and egg, the basics of making a great smørrebrød is four: rye bread, fats, Danish ingredients and savoury. And, making this unlike any other ordinary sandwich, smørrebrød is arranged with more detailed texture and contrast making it both pleasing to both the tastebud and the eye!

To make a smørrebrød, begin with Danish-style rye bread. This is a densed bread that tastes slightly malty with a sweet and sour tang, packed with seeds and cracked whole grains. The bread is primed with butter, animal fat or any other type of rich spread that helps prevent it from getting soggy once the toppings are added. The main ingredients are typical of the region, such as herring (pickled or fermented), boiled eggs and small shrimp. Thin slices of meats are also used as well as cheeses. The smørrebrød is then garnished with toppings that unify the whole experience. Think something with a crunch or a bit of sauce such as crunchy pickles, raw onion rings and watercress or mayonnaise mixed with peas.

Smørrebrød is eaten with utensils and, when sampling a smørrebrød, it is custom to begin with the herring, followed by seafood, then meats and finish off with cheese. It is not just about the Danish etiquette: eating in this sequence, with the acidic herring first, helps prime the tastebuds for the richer meats to follow. While there are hundreds of combinations and varieties of smørrebrød, they all share a common attribute – ingredients that reflect Scandinavian sensibilities of simple, honest and local.

For those wishing to taste a truly unique Danish food experience, the best time is at lunch when the unique smørrebrød is served. Smørrebrød has become very popular in the recent years, especially among young people as several restaurants and takeaways have reinvented the classic Danish lunch. Restaurant Schønnemann on Hauser Plads is a popular place for smørrebrød, which offers classic Danish lunch and vegetarian-friendly options. The restaurant, dating back to 1877, bakes its own rye bread, and there is still sand on the floor like there was in the 1800’s. Another great restaurant that has been around for a decade is Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik, across from the Danish parliament building. Needless to say, this is popular with Danish politicians. Restaurant Ida Davidsen, next to Amalienborg Palace, has the world’s longest menu according to the Guinness Book of Records, and includes many classic and innovative varieties of smørrebrød. Some are named after famous Danes, such as Victor Borge (smoked salmon, shrimp, crayfish and lumpfish roe). For herring lovers, head to Nyhavn to find Nyhavns Færgekro housed in the 17th century classic Danish building along the waterfront. Specialties include mustard-cured herring, ‘rullemops’ and pickled herrings coated in rye. Everything is prepared according to tradition from fresh spring or autumn herring.


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