Depending on how committed you are to gastronomic excellence, it may or may not make sense to book a trip to Copenhagen and brave the highly competitive process of getting a reservation at Noma (rated the world’s best restaurant four times). Copenhagen is currently one of the best — if not the ultimate — food cities in the world, and we’re totally with you if thoughts of clever, inventive Danish food occasionally tempt and distract your idle mind.
Fortunately, there’s a much more affordable and accessible way to experience Danish food, and it doesn’t involve any long-distance travel. These recipes are a bit more traditional than the New Nordic cuisine that’s currently taking the food world by storm, but if you’re sweet on the notion of scrumptious, typical dishes, below are your marching orders.
There’ll be no sleeping on the national liquor of Denmark. And if you’re feeling really fancy, you can make your own aquavit at home by infusing vodka or Everclear with aromatics, spices or herbs like caraway, dill, citrus and cloves. Then — unless you’re super hardcore — you can add your aquavit to a sophisticated cocktail, like a martini variation featuring Lillet Blanc and orange curacao, or an aquavit sour with brandy, lemon juice, egg white, cardamom and cilantro. Here are the recipes for these drinks (and more).
Appetizer: Sol Over Gudhjem (“Sun Over Gudhjem”)
Few things are as emblematic of Danish cuisine as herring and rye bread, and as luck would have it, the Danes are fond of combining the two. Sol Over Gudhjem (which translates to “Sun Over Gudhjem,” a small town on the island of Bornholm) is comprised of a dense slice of buttered rye bread topped with smoked herring, red onions, radishes, chives and an egg yolk (that’s the “sun” part of the equation). These types of open-faced sandwiches, known as smørrebrød, are a beloved food format in Denmark, and they’re very popular at lunchtime. Here’s a recipe from Restaurant Kronberg in Copenhagen.
Main Course: Stegt Flæsk
Seafood’s a big deal in Denmark, but when it comes to meat, pork is tops. And if you’re gonna do pork, it’s practically a no-brainer to put stegt flæsk on your table — a beloved traditional dish that’s essentially fancy bacon and potatoes (what’s not to love?). Stegt flæsk consists of crispy fried pork belly with parsley sauce and potatoes. Fun fact: in 2014, Danes had the opportunity to vote for their official national dish, and the will of the people willed stegt flæsk to primacy. Here’s how you do it.
A typical Danish dessert will often feature fruit and/or some sort of cream. Citronfromage, otherwise known as Danish Lemon Mousse, fits the bill with a tart and decadent conclusion to your feast. You’ll need an electric mixer (or a really sturdy arm), but it’ll be so worth the extra cleanup. This recipe shows you how to make the mousse, as well as garnish it with whipped cream and candied lemon zest.
Key Danish Phrases
I’m hungry — Jeg er sulten
I’m full —Jeg er mæt
Thank you — Tak
You’re welcome — Det var så lidt
Enjoy your meal! — Velbekomme!
This is delicious! — Det er lækkert!
Thanks for the food — Tak for mad*
*Customary to say at the end of a meal.