2 weeks ago
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur means "the town's best hot dogs" and is the name of a hotdog stand in central Reykjavík. It is located on Pósthússtræti in Reykjavík, near Kolaportið. Almost everyone in Iceland has eaten a hot dog in Bæjarins beztu.
Among famous people who have eaten a hot dog at Bæjarins beztu are Bill Clinton, former president of the USA, and James Hetfield, singer with the popular heavy metal band Metallica.
The hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur are often said to be the Icelandic national food.
The basics of an Icelandic hot dog:Icelandic hot dog sausages are made from a mixture of pork, lamb and beef. The fat content is quite high, as you can see if you grill or fry one. The bun is a regular hot dog bun: sweet, soft, light and white. The condiments are varied, but the most popular ones, the ones you get if you order eina með öllu (“one with the works”, or in Icelandic-English: “one with everything”) are:
Remoulade. This is an originally French sauce meant to be used with fish. The basic recipe is mayonnaise mixed with capers, mustard, herbs, anchovies, and gherkins, but I think the Icelandic version leaves out the capers and anchovies. At any rate, no one makes it at home because of all the work involved.
Ketchup. There is a sweet, locally made ketchup that contained, among other things, apple sauce, but these days it’s usually the imported, tart type.
Mustard. If it’s “one with everything”, it will be Icelandic Pylsysinnep (“hot dog mustard”), brown and not too bitter, or Danish sweet yellow hot dog mustard. In addition, you may find Dijon and hot mustard, but not on an ein með öllu.
French fried onions. These are crisp and delicious, sort of dried, deep fried brown onions (like the kind you put on good old green bean casserole) and add a good crunch to the hot dog. This is the classic ein með öllu. Purists claim that for it to be a true ein með öllu, you also need raw, chopped onions, but this is only for the brave and not recommended if you have a bad stomach or intend to kiss someone. At any rate, these are the condiments you will find everywhere they sell pylsur.
And now for the extras:
Kokkteilsósa, or cocktail sauce. An Icelandic invention and distant relative of seafood cocktail sauce. The home-made version is made from mayonnaise and ketchup. More elaborate versions add sour cream, a bit of mustard and a touch of garlic. Great with French fries (indeed, some Icelanders will not eat fries without kokkteilsósa), fried fish and roast chicken. Some also like it with hot dogs.
Salsa, chilli sauce, both hot and sweet, garlic sauce, hot dog relish and green (cucumber) relish. Relative newcomers on the hot dog scene, and quite popular with the crowd who will try anything. Last time we were in Iceland, we stopped at a gas station in Hafnarfjordur and when we asked for everything on our pylsur, we were also given potato salad on the top, sort of like a chili dog would be, only it was potato salad. It didn't taste bad, but I prefer the potato salad on the side, as it interfered with the lovely taste of the pylsur itself.
Pickled red cabbage. Especially popular in Akureyri (capital of the north), where the idea is thought to originate. As does the hotly debated (among purists) addition of French fries. I’m not referring to a hot dog with fries on the side, but a hot dog with fries stuffed in the bun. Called Akureyringur (person/thing from Akureyri) among the rest of the nation (as are hamburgers with fries in the bun). This reminded me of when I was in Tirane, Albania, and we stopped for a sandwich at a small, humble shack. We were served a very weird flat, pink, hamburger with a crisscross pattern stamped on it (anyone remember Kennel Ration dog treats?) with some kind of french fried potatos stuffed in the bun on top of the "hamburger." It didn't taste bad, but I've never before seen the fries inside of the sandwich... again I prefer them on the side.
Icelandic lamb hotdogs are the greatest food on earth... I'll easily argue that fact with anyone. When G and I came back from Iceland last time, we stuffed as many frozen pylsur into our backpacks as we could fit, along with the dried crispy onions, mustard and remoulade to accompany it. We have two lone frozen "dogs" left in the the freezer, as we have been hoarding them. I may just break down and eat them tonight. (Sorry Sweetie) :-)