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.”
What did you think of this story? Post your comments below.