The most important tip I can give you on Denmark local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Denmark, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in Denmark
Apart from the ubiquitous kebab shops and pizza stands, dining in Denmark can be fairly expensive, but a worthwhile cost. Traditional Danish fare includes items as pickled herring, fried plaice, and other assorted seafood items. Hearty meat dishes are also prevalent, as seen in items such as frikadeller (pork only or pork and veal meat balls topped by a brown sauce) and “stegt flæsk og persillesovs” (thick pork bacon slices topped by a parsley cream sauce). Many meals are also accompanied by a beer, and shots of aquavit or schnapps, though these are mainly enjoyed when guests are over.
Drinking along with meals is encouraged as the foods are enhanced by the drinks, and vice versa. If looking for a quick snack to grab on the go, try the traditional Danish hot dog, served in a bun with a variety of fixings, including pickles, fried or raw onions as well as ketchup, mustard and remoulade (a Danish invention in spite of the French name, consisting of mayonnaise with the addition of chopped cabbage and turmeric for color). For dessert, try either “ris à l’amande” (rice pudding with almonds and cherries, again a French name with no relation to French cuisine) or æbleskiver (ball-shaped cakes similar in texture to American pancakes, served with strawberry jam), both normally only available in November and December. For candy try a bag of “Superpiratos” (hot licorice candy with salmiakki).
In the past few years, Copenhagen has emerged as a very happening place for food enthusiasts and gastronomic travelers, the highlight being the world-renowned restaurant Noma. Do avoid touristy places where no Danes are to be found, popularity amongst locals is almost always an indicator of quality. Restaurants offering examples of international cuisine are common, mostly in major cities, especially Italian, Greek and Chinese restaurants, though Japanese, Indian and even Ethiopian restaurants can be found too. Quality is generally high, as the competition is too sharp for low-quality businesses to survive. Smørrebrød The traditional Danish lunch is smørrebrød, open sandwiches usually on rye bread – fish except herring, plaice and mackerel are served on white bread, and many restaurants give you a choice of breads. Smørrebrød served on special occasions, in lunch restaurants, or bought in lunch takeaway stores, are piled higher than the daily fare. The Danish rye bread (rugbrød) is dark, slightly sourish and often wholegrain. It is a must for all visitors to try.
What to Drink in Denmark
Danes are rightly famous for their good looks, but unlike most other places, their lucky draw at the gene pool hasn’t translated into the self assertion and confidence you normally see. And the Danes have become infamous for being closed and tight lipped, bordering the outright rude. So while it is by no means impossible, you will still be hard pressed to find a Dane readily engaging in casual conversations with strangers. That is, until you hit the country’s bars and nightclubs. As any foreigner who has spend time observing the Danes will tell you, alcohol is the fabric that holds Danish society together. And when they are off their face in the dead of night, they suddenly let their guard down, loosen up, and while a bit pitiful, they somehow transmorph into one of the most likable bunch of people on Earth.
Rather than the violence associated with binge drinking elsewhere, because it seems to serve a very important social purpose, the natives get very open, friendly and loving instead. It takes some time getting used to, but if you want to form bonds with the Danes, this is how you do it – God help you if you are abstinent. This also means Danes have a very high tolerance for drunk behavior, provided it takes place in the weekends. Drink a glass or two of wine for dinner during the week is normal, as well as 20 pints on a Saturday night, and puke all over the place. There is no legal drinking age in Denmark, although a legal purchase age of 16 is in effect in shops and supermarkets, and 18 in bars, discos and restaurants.
The enforcement of this limitation is somewhat lax in shops and supermarkets, but quite strict in bars and discos, as fines of up to DKK 10,000 and annulment of the license can incur on the vendor. The purchaser is never punished, although some discos enforce a voluntary zero-tolerance policy on underage drinking, where you can get kicked out if caught with no ID and an alcoholic beverage in your hand. Some would claim that the famous Danish tolerance towards underage drinking is waning in light of recent health campaigns targeting the consumption of alcoholic beverages amongst Danes.
As adult Danes do not approve of the government interfering with their own drinking habits, the blame is shifted towards adolescents instead, and proposals of increasing the legal purchase age to 18 overall have been drafted, but have yet to pass Parliament, neither is it likely too in the foreseeable future. Drinking alcoholic beverages in public is considered socially acceptable in Denmark, and having a beer out in a public square is a common warm weather activity there, though local by-laws are increasingly curbing this liberty, as loitering alcoholics are regarded as bad for business. Drinking bans are usually signposted, but not universally obeyed and enforced. In any case, be sure to moderate your public drinking, especially during the daytime.
Extreme loudness may in the worst case land you a few hours in jail for public rowdiness (no record will be kept, though). Most police officers will instead ask you to leave and go home, though. Danish beer is a treat for a beer enthusiast. The largest brewery, Carlsberg (which also owns the Tuborg brand), offers a few choices, as well as a delicious “Christmas beer” in the 6 weeks leading up to the holidays. Other tasty beverages include the Aquavit (Snaps) and Gløgg – a hot wine drink popular in December. Danish beer is mostly limited to lager beer (pilsner), which are good, but not very diverse. However in the last few years Danes have become interested in a wider range of beers, and Danish microbreweries’ excellent products are increasingly available. The Danish Beer Enthusiasts maintain a list of bars and restaurants with a good selection of beers as well as a list of stores with a good selection.
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.