Forget hygge. The original Nordic lifestyle trend was all about the ultimate comfort food: hotdogs.
The Syverkiosken [pictured above] is an Oslo landmark. The low-fi, 12 m sq kiosk located near to Alexander Kiellands Plass, has been serving hotdogs every day since 1979.
With prices starting from 20 Krone (£1.90), it’s one of the cheapest snack options in the city.
But there’s more to the Norwegian love of hotdogs than just a cheap snack.
There were previously more than 40 such kiosks around town but late-opening Syverkiosken is now the last one standing, fending off cheap hotdogs from convenience stores with its family recipes and retro-fashion styling.
“Hotdog kiosks have always been a part of our culture, a place where people from all walks of life stand beside each other,” says hotdog chef Elias Pellicer Ruud.
“For Norwegians, real hotdogs are the taste of nostalgia.”
Owner Erlend Dahlbo recommends using boiled wiener sausages while fried, German-style bratwurst are favored in the west of Norway.
What differentiates these to hotdogs in Denmark or Iceland is the topping, a thin potato pancake to keep your dog toasty.
Suitably inspired, I order The Special, a hotdog served in a bread roll with potato salad and mushrooms picked fresh that morning in the forest outside of Oslo.
I pair it with a can of Toyen-Cola, a local take on Coke.
The taste is comforting yet deliciously spiced with a particularly fiery brand of mustard and, when it explodes in my hands, smearing my chin with sauce, I wear it as a badge of honor.
Like any self-respecting Osloite, I’m lost in a moment of hotdog heaven.
The word means ‘bucket’ and reflects the style of cooking.
It’s one of Birmingham’s proudest inventions and, recently, the inspiration for new culinary tours that celebrate the city’s best-loved dish.
It is the Balti and, in time for British Food Fortnight, I’m in Birmingham on a blustery day to see the city through the prism of its Balti heritage.
For the first leg of my Balti Break, I join Tabriz ‘Tabs’ Hussain of the Asian Balti Association for a tour of Birmingham’s so-called Balti Triangle, more precisely three streets in the city’s Sparkbrook district, home to around 40 Balti restaurants and communities of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Yemeni families.
“The Balti was invented here around 1980, adapting a Pakistani recipe for the Western palette,” explains Tabs, as we head down Ladypool Road, stopping to admire exotic fruit and vegetables for sale outside the Raja Brothers store.
“It has helped bring prosperity to a previously deprived area.”
“Tourists never came here until a few years ago,” he adds. “Now the restaurants are packed with visitors to Birmingham,” he explains, highlighting some of the unfamiliar vegetables used in traditional Balti recipes.
Down the road at the Lahore Sweat Centre, we marvel at the vibrant rows of brightly coloured sweats, including chum chum made from semolina and milk, and coconut barfi.
The owners hands us samples and we relish the sugar hit.
The tour complete, we then stroll over to the Royal Naim restaurant on Stratford Road for the final ingredient in our Balti experience: dinner.
An informal, no-frills eatery, we sit at glass-topped tables with paintings of Kashmir adorning the walls.
As I tuck into my chicken and aubergine Balti, using the naan bread to scoop up morsels of chicken, co-diner Andy Munro, author of the Essential Street Balti Guide, explains his rationale behind the tours.
“It’s about unlocking the secrets of the area to foster cultural understanding via its cuisine,” explains Andy, who claims to have eaten over 2,000 Baltis and never once had a bad stomach.
Most of all, it’s about celebrating great flavours.
“A Balti is cooked in five minutes over a high flame and served in the same flat-bottomed wok to preserve the flavour of the spices,” grins Andy, dipping his naan hungrily.
“It’s cleaner and healthier than a typical curry – and it’s proudly Brummie.”
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What with Noma and all that foraging, not to mention all those Michelin stars.
But there’s a higher purpose beyond the hyperbole. A slew of initiatives from local chefs, NGOs and government agencies are helping Danes to educate their kids about food, tackling social issues in the process.
That’s why Olivia [above left], Maya [above right] and myself are just back from a long weekend in Copenhagen.
It wasn’t all hotdogs and fairground rides at Tivoli. We also rolled up our sleeves and joined a cookery class at Meyer’s Madhus, the cooking school founder Claus Meyer, a leading light in the New Nordic Kitchen movement.
The full article will appear in Family Traveller magazine in July to preview child-freindly events at the Copenhagen Cooking Festival in August.
But here’s a sneak preview:
Back in the kitchen, things were hotting up. With 30 minutes to complete the two-course meal, Maya was busily adding lemon juice to the simmering rhubarb while Olivia helped head chef Matte to thicken the sauce for the chicken.
Across the kitchen, 12-year-old Tobias, a veteran of Meyer Madhus’ cookery classes, was chastising his team of three teenage boys for burning the butter with a fiery flourish worthy of the young Marco Pierre White.
“Yes, I’d like to be a chef,” he tells me, taking a temper-cooling breather on the terrace outside. “I love to cook and I love to eat.”
But, just like a scene from the kitchen at Noma, the service comes together at the last moment and we all sit down to eat around a large, communal table and toast our success with glasses of organic juice.
Plus you can find a set of images from the trip at my Flickr page.
And watch a video of the cookery class for kids at Meyer’s Madhus in Copenhagen on Vimeo: