The most traditional dish and drink in Denmark… and where to get it in Copenhagen

March 07, 2019
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Mie Rom Dybro
Tour Leader @
Copenhagen Urban Adventures

Denmark may be home to over 30 Michelin Stars and numerous noteworthy restaurants to choose from in Copenhagen and beyond, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. Rather, let’s delve into the country’s national dish and the national spirit of Scandinavia. Because what’s travel without making time to discover the food and drink that help shape and define a nation?!

Crispy pork with parsley sauce

As far as food goes, crispy pork belly with parsley sauce and boiled potatoes (stegt flæsk med persillesovs) is without a doubt the most traditional dish you can come across while you’re in Copenhagen or Denmark. In 2014, our government set out to find the most Danish dish – and this hearty option came out on top with more than 60,000 votes. It consists of crispy pork belly with boiled potatoes and a white, creamy parsley sauce with chopped parsley on top. The dish can be traced all the way back to the 1800s and has, during its history, been considered a poor man’s dish since it was one of the fattier dishes and pork was very easy to come by. If you didn’t know, Denmark actually still has more pigs than people!

Today though, the dish is extremely popular, and as a matter of fact one of the newest traditions in Copenhagen as well as Denmark, is families serving valgflæsk (election pork belly) at the dinner table on election night. The word refers to the idea that politicians are offering something worthwhile (similar to this savoury dish) to their constituents in the hope of getting votes. In practice, it’s of course not food they promise, but instead the promises of lower taxes, adding more teachers in schools, or more roads for cars, which of course seldom ends up manifesting afterwards.

If you find yourself in Denmark try some stegt flæsk med persillesovs, which is served on many menus in Copenhagen and throughout the country.

Where to get it: Restaurant Klubben

bartender pouring cocktails in Copenhagen

Sample some aquavit-inspired cocktails | Photo by Copenhagen Urban Adventures

The water of life: Danish aquavit

Aquavit, or snaps as we call it here in Denmark, is having a renaissance in Copenhagen. Many of the city’s hip cocktail bars are now using it as a base spirit in their newest creations, since it has a gin-like quality. It’s “honest” like its botanical counterpart, and it will never go undetected with its distinct caraway and/or dill flavours. When you bring this type of spirit up in Denmark, be ready to talk – everyone has an opinion about it! With young people, it has a terrible reputation, although aquavit or snaps is customary at most (if not all) of our traditional social gatherings like Christmas lunches, Easter lunches and so on.

At these traditional social gatherings, you’re served very seasonally specific Danish food that is usually complemented with aquavit, or snaps. There is just something memorable about being served pickled herring, pan-fried fish, pork and a large array of other comfort foods on open-faced sandwiches and then downing it with a strong Danish aquavit high in alcohol. Danish comfort food is fattier than our Scandinavian counterparts, so our Aquavit is the strongest and most sharp of the types you’ll find here in Scandinavia.

Where to get it: Rastløs – En Akvavit Bar