The art of open face sandwiches

A old classic on the Danish lunch table is smørrebrød – or open face sandwich. The basic idea is to have a thin slice of rye bread (rugbrød) for the base, a cold-cut of meat (pålæg) and some garnish (pynt) on top for decoration. To complement the food a beer and a shot of snaps (aquavit) is served.

Thomas Leth from Vice recently went through Copenhagen to explore the phenomenon and the art of creating of this old Nordic cuisine.

Along the way in Copenhagen Thomas stops at Slotskælderen. Two other places to seek this out in Copenhagen is Ida Davidsen and Hansens Have.

Here in our area there you can get smørrebrød at Den Gamle Kro in Gråsten and take-away from Byens Smørrebrød and Schmidts Delikatesse in Sønderborg.

Make you own (but beware)
If you are invited for lunch at a Danish family you can also create your own smørrebrød. However for us Danes there are some combinations that make sense and some that will definitely raise eyebrows.

Good wholesome, safe choices:

  • Roast beef — thin sliced, topped with remoulade, and decorated with a sprinkling of shredded horseradish and toasted onion.
  • Leverpostej — warm rough-chopped liver pâté topped with bacon, and sauteed mushrooms.
  • Salted ham (Saltkød) – sliced of meat with “Italian salad” (mayonnaise mixed with peas, sliced boiled asparagus and diced carrot) and spring onions.

Don’t do this in front of Danes:

  • Remoulade on herring
  • Remoulade on cheese
  • Cheese on ham (This might be the most universal sandwich, but it’s not working in the Danish open sandwich world)

Ann has tried all three of the no-nos and had my parents and me send suspicious eyes. Have you tasted smørrebrød or had any “incidents” when you got too creative for the Danes?

2 thoughts on “The art of open face sandwiches

  1. Ross

    Yea I tried them in Stockholm too but they do allow ham and cheeese as long as there is lettuce! I like them. I gotta say that I thought I would hate picked Herring but now that I’ve tries it , its actually quite nice. My favourite open face sandwich is prawns and a sort of Remoulade.

  2. Edu

    Jeez, Michael, I do put ham and cheese together and – worse – another slice of bread on top of my smorrebrod! Ok, not really when rye bread, just when “normal” hotel-breakfast bread, but anyway I notice people looking funny at me. 🙂

    Love this blog of yours!


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