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Danish cuisine

Over the past 30 years, traditional Danish food has been re-invented as New Nordic Cuisine. It emphasises the use of local and seasonal ingredients and is a hit with both local and international foodies.

What is traditional Danish food?

Traditional Danish food is based on what was historically available nearby or could be farmed during Denmark's short summers. Cabbage and root vegetables like beets were an important part of the diet, along with rye bread, fish, and pork. 

Open-faced sandwiches, known as smørrebrød, are among the best-known examples of traditional Danish cuisine. These small half-pieces of rye bread are topped with fried fish, pickled fish, eggs, potatoes, or cold meat, and sometimes horseradish and onion. They are eaten at lunchtime, either as part of a packed lunch or in a company cantine. 

Larger traditional meals are often based on fish or pork, sometimes ground and fried as meatballs. The "national dish of Denmark" is stegt flæsk - pieces of pork, fried until crisp, and then served with boiled potatoes and parsley sauce.

Ironically, the tasty frosted pastries known to much of the world as "Danish" are not Danish at all. They originated in Austria, and are known to the Danes themselves as "Viennese bread."

Did you know

Fine Danish restaurants hold a total of 30 Michelin stars in 2018, more than in any other Nordic country. Geranium in Copenhagen tops the Danish list with three Michelin stars. Geranium's head chef, Rasmus Kofoed, is a former gold medalist at the prestigious  Bocuse d'Or contest, also known as the unofficial world championship in cooking. 

The New Nordic Cuisine trend

In the past 30 years, Danish food culture has rediscovered its roots and re-invented old recipes for contemporary diners. Chef  Claus Meyer was one of the main drivers of the New Nordic wave; he and his team worked with food scientists to investigate how food was prepared before the rise of industrialised agriculture. Meyer now owns a chain of restaurants and delicatessens in Denmark, plus a Danish food outlet at Grand Central Station in New York. 

Noma, the showcase

Meanwhile Restaurant Noma, established in 2003, became a showcase for New Nordic cuisine. Head chef René Redzepi created exotic dishes based on wild herbs grown in Scandinavia plus unusual animals like musk ox. Noma gained international attention when it won the title of the best restaurant in the world four times in the World's 50 Best Restaurants contest. The restaurant re-opened in a new location in Copenhagen in February 2018 after a year of temporary pop-up restaurants in Tokyo, Sydney, and Tulum in Mexico.  

In general, New Nordic cuisine is characterised mainly by the innovative use of seasonal ingredients of the Nordic larder - some long-forgotten, many organic. 

Cakes and candies

 Danes love sweets, particularly cake. Whether it is a homemade drømmekage (dream cake) with coconut and brown sugar or an elaborate strawberry tart from one of the country's many bakeries, no celebratory dinner is complete without a cake.  

 

In addition, Danes have a passion for chocolate and for liquorice, particularly salt liquorice. Johan Bülow, a candymaker born on the Danish island of Bornholm, created an international sensation with a selection of chocolate-covered liquorice topped with additional flavours like raspberry and sea buckthorn, a local berry. 

Updated hot dogs 

Other Danish food standards are also getting upgrades to match contemporary tastes. For example, the Danish creation called the "French hot dog" - a sausage stuck in a round piece of bread and sold from a sidewalk cart - now often features organic meats, a sourdough bun, and healthy mashed roots on the side.

 

Meanwhile, Danish rugbrød or rye bread, the basis of many meals, is now available freshly-made from many bakeries and supermarkets. The bread contains no sugar and little fat, and it is rich in whole grain and dietary fiber.

Ease of doing business: The restaurant Meet former Noma dessert chef Rosio Sanchez 

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