Since befriending a Dane and his family while studying abroad in India almost 10 years ago, I think I’ve been to Denmark about 10 times over the years. I always feel I’ve got a good sense of the place. I’ve seen the little mermaid, taken the canal boat tour, danced around the Danish Christmas tree singing carols, even watched FC Copenhagen play. So when visiting this past weekend to meet my friend’s new baby and by ‘Didi Brie’ for the weekend, my trip wasn’t really about anything more than quality time – certainly not about ‘being in Denmark’.
But I learn something new about Denmark every time I visit ( past lessons have included ‘how to put groceries on a Danish grocery store conveyor belt properly’ and New Potato Orthodoxy), and this trip was no different: I learned how to prepare a fantastic traditional open-faced sandwich, Sun over God’s House. And learned there is only one right way to do this. When at the fishmonger (and not aware of the larger plan) I had suggested we eat our smoked mackerel sandwiches with soft cheese and lemon. looks. of. horror.
Danes have strict rules about open faced sandwiches. Unlike a ‘closed’ sandwich, where anarchy and improvisation reign, each open-faced sandwich in Denmark is a complete and accepted standard to which deviation is not acceptable. No changes to bread, condiment or presentation is permitted. Why mess with perfection? (or at least, a general consensus of perfection). Its one of the things I love about Denmark, and one of the things that I hate about Denmark (I should be allowed to have mustard on my salami sandwich if I want!)
Onto the sandwich: Danish black bread, spread with butter has smoked herring (or mackerel if you’re getting crazy) placed onto it. Add chives and radishes before adding the crowning glory: an onion ring into which a single, seperated egg yolk is placed. Garnish with a squeeze of lemon, a grind of pepper and eat with a knife and fork.
The sandwich is named after a town on a small Danish island where fish are caught (and smoked). It was delicious – smoky, sour with biting radish and moist egg yolk spread on top like a deconstructed mayonnaise. My friend said the sandwich has fallen out of fashion with some now, as people worry about the health risks of raw egg, but well – I’m still here to tell the tale.