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Scandinavian Streetfood: Rød Pølse, the Essence of Danish Hot Dogs

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Danish red sausage with bread, served on Royal Scandinavian porcelain. Not the traditional hot dog stand plate. [Photograph: Mads Damgaard]

Hot dogs. Probably the world's most popular fast food, and by far the ruler of Scandinavian street food. The three Scandinavian countries all have their own varieties and local traditions, but they all have one thing in common: They absolutely love hot dogs. From boiled to grilled, with or without condiments, homemade or bought at the local hotdog pusher; Scandinavians jump on every chance they get to grab a dog.

To me a hot dog (or any one of the many local alterations) is always a top ranking alternative for a quick lunch or on the way home from a very late night on the town. And regardless if I end up having a Danish Rød Pølse, a Swedish Grillkorv, or a Norwegian Pølse i Lompe (usually depending on my geographical location), it's always great to share a few laughs and listen to the infinite wisdom of the hot dog man (the cabbies of fast food) while waiting for hunger to be pig-tamed.

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The author of the article at the favorite hot dog stand in Vesterbro, Copenhagen. [Photograph: Mads Damgaard]

I'll be featuring Scandinavian hot dogs and other fast food specialties from the region in the coming months, so keep your eyes open for the best of Norway and Sweden as well. But we'll start in Denmark, self proclaimed kings of everything that has anything to do with pork and sausages.

In cities and towns across this lilliputian country you can see pølsemænd (hot dog men) pulling their electric hot dog stands back and forth between their homes and their vending location every day, most of them walking in the middle of the street—during rush hour. It's quite an amusing sight for an outsider, especially considering the fact that nobody seems to get ticked off at the vendors for blocking traffic. Unpractical, perhaps. But the Danes stick to these mobile stands, with many cities still prohibiting more permanent structures in order to preserve this charming culinary cultural heritage.

The essence of Danish hot dogs is the Rød Pølse, or Red Sausage, seen in the top picture. Originally these strange looking sausages were the ones that were too old to be sold. But instead of throwing them out, sausage vendors in the poverty stricken Denmark of the late 1920s instead chose to dip these sausages in a red dye and sell them for cheaper prices. The red sausage quickly became a success, and in the end all sausages were dipped in the red dye since people stopped buying the other ones. Traditionally, these babies are served on a paper plate with bread and condiments such as ketchup, mustard, remoulade sauce, and onions on the side. Since more than 100 million of them are sold in Denmark every year (in a country with a population of 5.5 million), they must be doing something right!

Smaklig Måltid!

About the author: Kalle Bergman has a lifelong obsession with simple and honest food. He is a blogger at kallebergman.com and as a Swede residing in Denmark he is placed right in the middle of the vibrant Nordic food scene. Under the Seriously Scandinavian banner, he is digging into everything from traditional Scandinavian fare to contemporary food trends from the cold North.

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