When in Denmark You Must Sample the Smørrebrød
OPEN-FACED SANDWICHES FROM AAMANNS IN COPENHAGEN ARE EDIBLE WORKS OF ART
Come to Copenhagen she said. And try the sandwiches. Sandwiches? Yes. Sandwiches. I will venture that the Danes make some of the most beautiful (and tasty) sandwiches in the world. Gauntlet thrown. Mic dropped. Are you ready for this? These Danish sandwiches come without tops. Kind of like some bathers at the beaches in Denmark. And while public nudity is not scandalous around Copenhagen, neither is the smørrebrød. It is truly delicious. And there is one to taste for all palates and preferences. Smørrebrød can even be vegan. Time to take your top off. Your sandwich, that is. Put this open-faced sandwich on your plate pronto.
How to pronounce smørrebrød in Danish:
SMØRREBRØD IS A UNIQUELY DANISH FOOD
Smørrebrød in its direct translation means buttered bread. But it rarely is. The name alludes to its minimalist roots that gave smørrebrød a place in Danish culinary history. It was a simple dish that Danish farmers could take to the field and enjoy during their lunch break. Originally smørrebrød was a slice of dense and hearty sourdough rye bread (rugbrød) smeared with butter or animal fat and topped with leftovers from the previous evening’s dinner. Oh, how it has evolved. From that once simple agrarian lunch fare to New Nordic cuisine, smørrebrød nowadays has become edible art.
Smør = Butter | Brød = Bread
When in Copenhagen, you will be hard-pressed to miss the window fronts and cases full of smørrebrød on display all over town. Outside the annual Easter lunch or Christmas Julefrokost, many Danes wouldn’t deign to eat this dish when dining out. It was something you made yourself at home. Until about 10-15 years ago. Enter Adam Aamann, who sought to elevate the simple sandwich once again. At the time, it was a risky move. Not exactly considered haute cuisine, smørrebrød had become relegated to pub grub, corporate canteens and childrens’ lunch boxes.
By applying the tenets of New Nordic cuisine to simple Danish sandwiches, Adam reinvented the lunch classic. The smørrebrød here is made relying on fresh, local and seasonal ingredients sourced sustainably used in recipes that are made from scratch in-house and celebrate decidedly Nordic flavors and cooking techniques.¹ At Aamanns, everything is culled, cooked, cured, seasoned, flavored and curated with this in mind. Aamanns’ specialty is smørrebrød. And it is literally edible art. These sandwiches are simply beautiful. And sooo delicious to boot.
Our bread is made of freshly milled rye, ’ølands’ and wheat flower from Herslev – ground in our own stone mill. The herring is marinated for 6-12 months and is from the North Atlantic. Our salmon is Icelandic and smoked over beech. We only use free-range poultry from Gråsten and the meat is from our good friends at Grambogård. We are seasonal and gather herbs for our snaps and cooking ourselves.”
FIRST TRY THE FISK
The Danish word for lunch is frokost. Like many European countries, lunches are worth lingering over here in Denmark. But there are rituals and rules for a Danish lunch. Like pretty much everything in Denmark. There are rules. And you must follow them. Or someone will tell you. That you didn’t. It’s ok. They just want you to know. How things go here in Denmark.
A smørrebrød lunch definitely has rules. And I do not pretend that I know them all. But at Aamanns, they will help you follow the rules. In the nicest way. And don’t worry, these rules are truly tasty. The first rule? Fish comes first. You should definitely try the fish. It’s my favorite. In fact, I might even break decorum and skip the second courses for another version of the frisk fisk. Fresh fish. It’s fantastisk. That’s Danish for fantastic. Say that five times fast.
WHAT FISH YOU’LL FIND ON A DANISH SMØRREBRØD MENU
The most popular Danish fish course includes herring, cured for months in a vinegar or sherry-based marinade. Herring is indigenous in these here parts. Comes fresh from fisherman scooping the slim silver beauties all up and down the North Atlantic coast. I love it. And here at Aamanns, it tastes fresh and light and not that “fishy.” Truly. But I love fish. And this fish, I can highly recommend and you should try it. At least once. It’s very Danish.
If you feel more comfortable with salmon, they have that too. Aamann’s salmon comes from Iceland but is cured in the Danish tradition. Here it is known as lax. If you are familiar with “lox,” which you might put on your bagel with a schmear of cream cheese, this is very similar. Both cut from the belly of the salmon, Scandinavian lax is normally cured with a sugar, salt and herb brine. Here at Aammans, they make their own. It is scrumptious. For those who favor their fish more fried than cured, take the plaice. A flash fried filet atop your rye bread will probably feel more familiar and just as fantastisk.
After the fish course comes the meat and veggies and cheese
While the menu changes seasonally to accommodate what is ripe when, there are options all year round if prefer plant-based fare. Vegetarians will delight in options like Jerusalem artichokes with mushrooms, pickled onions and sorrel or fried cauliflower with lovage mayonnaise, hazelnut and tomato from the current menu. Often you’ll find thinly sliced potato options when you out an about. Don’t knock the Danish new potatoes ’til you try them. Danes swear by them and for good reason. They are truly super tasty.
Make Mine Meat
Popular meat options at Aamanns include a beautiful chicken salad, which is an easy entry into smørrebrød for the uninitiated. For the more adventurous, try the beef tartare, served with slivered beets and crispy potato tuiles that you administer yourself atop house baked bread served separately. For a truly Danish taste, try the liver paté with all the toppings they tout. I don’t normally buy it at the market, but love to taste it when I’m out. You can be assured, here, it is sublime.
WHAT TO WASH DOWN YOUR DISH WITH
When in Denmark, do as the Danes do. Taste the snaps. Especially at Aamanns. Here they infuse their own to perfectly match the delicious sandwiches being served. Snaps, or akvakit is a distilled liquor (not unlike vodka, but with lower alcohol content) and usually made from potatoes or grain. Ask your server for a flavor that will best suit your smørrebrød selection. You should taste it before and then with the dishes when served as the timbre of the little glass of liquor changes and supports the flavors on your plate.
WHEN YOU COME TO COPENHAGEN | DON’T MISS THE SMØRREBRØD
There are many delicious options to sample some smørrebrød when in Copenhagen. If you have a little more time and a slightly more forgiving budget – step inside any of the Aamanns restaurants to experience the dish elevated to its finest. I adore Aamanns. And they didn’t pay me to say that. I promise. Yum. We recently shared a delicious lunch with my mom in town visiting at the newest Aamanns in the center city. Aamanns 1921 is a modern and bright restaurant smack in the middle of the cobblestoned old streets of the indre by. Inner city.
Step past the tourist throngs and masses as they make their way down the nearby pedestrian streets between Nørreport and the Strøget. Niels Hemmingsens Gade is an unassuming, pretty as a picture lane not too far from the Round Tower and it serves up some stunning smørrebrød. This is the perfect place to try the classic topless Danish sandwich. The most beautiful sandwich in the world. There. I said it. And I’ve tried a few. Around the world. If you don’t agree. I’d love to know. And then I’ll definitely try your sandwich!
Niels Hemmingsens Gade 19-21, 1153 København
+45 20 80 52 04
For an up-to-date list of the best smørrebrød spots across Copenhagen – click over to this post: