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A Quest for Scandinavian Food

By Billa

As I described in my last blog (, my husband Martin and I sailed on a twelve-day Scandinavian cruise where no Scandinavian food was served in the dining room. Luckily, there were two port days where we had the opportunity to have lunch on shore.

Our first venture was to a restaurant called Louise, which was located in a marina in Oslo, Norway. We both ordered a “Danish” sandwich, which is how Norwegians refer to smorbrod - literally, "butter bread", a traditional open-faced sandwich commonly eaten in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden that usually consists of a piece of rye bread, topped with mayonnaise or butter, followed by cold cuts, pieces of meat, or fish, then cheese or another spread, and topped with garnishes such as pickles, hard-boiled eggs, and capers. And because this sandwich has no top piece of bread, it is apt that smorbrod etiquette requires that you eat it with a knife and fork.

My smorbrod had avocado and aioli, tomatoes, lettuce, and sunflower seeds. Martin’s had shrimp and salmon roe, arugula, and a flavorful mayonnaise. His sandwich was accompanied by delicious crispy French fries.

The second lunch was part of a tour of Copenhagen, Denmark that we had signed up for called “smushi and sail.” The “smushi” turned out to be smorbrod. It was served in a building owned by Odd Fellows, an international fraternity that promotes philanthropy, reciprocity, and charity. There was a variety of smorbrods to choose from. I chose a shrimp smorbrod this time and it was fresh and tasty.

When we got home after the cruise, we both wanted to have more Scandinavian fare.

First, Martin made a smorbrod lunch with pumpernickel bread spread with Earth Balance and topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon, hard-boiled egg, tomato, red pepper, green pepper, red onion, black olives, green olives, and lemon juice. It was a great combination of ingredients that we like and that went well together. (Traditionally, smorbrod is made with a dense and sour rye bread. It’s hard to find here, so pumpernickel is a recommended substitute.)

A couple of days later, I created my own version of smorbrod. I used Smart Balance, herring, red onion, avocado, hard-boiled egg, cucumber, daikon radish, and capers. All are ingredients that I like. I especially enjoyed the herring, which I sorely missed because, in my mind, herring is associated with Scandinavia and I was disappointed that we didn't have any when we were there. For the bread, I used Mestermacher, a German whole wheat rye bread. It was very dense, a little dry, and not at all sour. I think pumpernickel would be my choice going forward.

Now that we satisfied our smorbrod craving, I wanted to tackle a Scandinavian entree. The only Scandinavian main dish I had made thus far was a vegetarian version of Swedish meatballs. I had blogged about it before.

It’s a dish I really like. So, I made it for dinner that first week after the cruise. The “meatballs” are made of bulgur and chickpeas and taste substantially meaty. They’re cooked in a sour cream gravy. Absolutely yummy!

The following week, however, I wanted to have a different Scandinavian entree. I looked up some recipes online, and here’s what I chose to make: Norwegian salmon with dill sauce, Danish potato salad, and Swedish braised red cabbage. All are foods that we’ve had before separately and liked, but it was nice to experience these authentic Scandinavian versions and to have them together as a complete Scandinavian meal.

Here are those recipes:

Finally, I wanted to make a quintessential Scandinavian dessert. I chose kladdkaka - Swedish sticky chocolate cake. It turned out to be low, dense, super-gooey, and very rich. (and therefore best served in small portions.)

You will find a recipe here, if you’re tempted:


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