For those wishing to taste a truly unique Danish food experience, the best time is at lunch when the unique smørrebrød (literally ‘butter bread’, or open sandwich), is served.
Smørrebrød is a daily staple for many Danes, and a truly classic taste of the nation’s traditional cuisine. Invariably based on rye bread, smørrebrød can have an almost limitless number of different toppings, from herring, to raw beef, seafood and egg. Smørrebrød has become very popular in the recent years, especially among young people.
One of the reasons is the fact that 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. 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. The restaurant serves 24 different types of beer and features a menu with 35 different types of aquavit.
A great restaurant for smørrebrød that could celebrate 100 years of age in 2010 is Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik, across from the Danish parliament building. Needless to say, this is popular with Danish politicians. Lumskebugten with a maritime interior by the harbour and the Gefion Fountain and Restaurant Skt. Annæ, near the Royal Palace are experts in making this Danish speciality.
In Nyhavn, the small canal leading up to Kongens Nytorv, the Nyhavns Færgekro among other types, specializes in sandwiches with many different versions of pickled, fried and smoked herring: The lunch place for herring lovers!
If you want to taste smørrebrød in a new way, you should definitely go to Royal Copenhagen on Strøget, the pedestrian street. Latest addition to this porcelain universe is The Royal Smushi Café. Here, in beautiful serene surroundings, you can have a “smushi” – the idea of sushi, but the taste of ‘smørrebrød’ i.e. sandwich.
The choice of smushi is changed according to the four seasons and they are served on different kinds of porcelain design. The Royal Café opened a café serving smushi in Japan in 2010. “Smushi” has now been introduced as a separate subject at the Copenhagen Hotel- and Restaurant School.
Dark & heavy
Bread is a very important part of the Scandinavian table. Based primarily on rugbrød, which is sour-dough rye bread. It is a dark, heavy bread, which forms the basis of smørrebrød.
Traditional toppings include marinerede sild, which are pickled herrings (plain, kryddret – spiced, or karry – curried), slightly sweeter than Dutch or German herrings; thinly-sliced cheese in many varieties; sliced cucumber, tomato and boiled eggs; leverpostej, which is pork liver-paste; dozens of types of cured or processed meat in thin slices, or smoked fish such as salmon; mackerel in tomato sauce; pickled cucumber; boiled egg, and rings of red onion.
Mayonnaise mixed with peas, sliced boiled asparagus and diced carrot, called italiensk salat (lit. Italian salad), remoulade or other thick sauces often top the layered open sandwich, which is usually eaten with utensils. It is custom to pass the dish of sliced breads around the table, and then to pass around each dish of toppings and people help themselves.
There are hundreds of combinations and varieties of smørrebrød. Some of the traditional examples include:
• Dyrlægens natmad (Danish: Veterinarian's midnight snack) — On a piece of dark rye bread, a layer of liver paté (leverpostej), topped with a slice of salt beef (salt kød) and a slice of meat aspic (sky). This is all decorated with raw onion rings and garden cress.
• Eel — Smoked eel on dark rye bread, topped with scrambled eggs and sliced radishes or chopped chives.
• Leverpostej — Warm rough-chopped liverpaste served on dark rye bread, topped with bacon, and sauteed mushrooms.