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So Long, Scandie #3 – the Unpronounceables

In Danish, Danish, Eats, Recipes on June 30, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Usually, when I travel to non-English-speaking countries, the only words of the local language I could speak would be hello, thank you, and the words on a menu. Usually, those words and a few hand gestures are more than enough to satisfy me (it gets me the food I want) and satisfy my server (who happily serves me the food I want). But after FIVE months of eating rugbrød (rye bread) sandwiches and smørrebrød (open sandwich) in Denmark, and hearing their names being pronounced a million times by a million different people….I still can’t say it right. Anyway, whatever you’re saying in your head right now, is probably not right too.

Photo credits: <http://magnesiumagency.com/2010/01/17/the-food-we-hate-to-love/&gt;

The way I hear my Danish housemate say it, rugbrød sounds something remotely like ‘ROALLB-BPLOALLH’ or ‘ROW-BLOW’ pronounced with a frikadeller/fishball in each cheek; and smørrebrød uhhhh…sounds s o m e t h i n g like ‘SMOUHR-BPLOALLH‘. Even if I’m given a script of ten random words and an audio guide, I don’t think I can manage to pick out which word is rugbrød and which one is smørrebrød. I’m thankful that at least ‘Thank you’ is as easy as ‘tak’ (pronounced as it looks)…. though the response of *##$@$* that I hear from the cashier almost every other day has never ever been understood by my Asian ears.

Smørrebrod is a traditional Danish open-faced sandwich that originated from the words ‘smørre og brød’ or ‘butter and bread’. It’s usually served on rugbrød, which is a Danish dense rye bread that is as healthy as it looks (very high fibre low calorie – 9g fibre and 180kcal / 100g while keeping you full for twice as long) and definitely a lot more flavourful and moist than it looks (thin and almost-black rectangular slab of grains bounded together). Unlike most other sandwiches that are dominated by the bread, Smørrebrød features the sandwich ingredients while the rugbrød quietly supports from under with pleasing contrasts in flavours and textures. And unlike most other sandwiches that are modes of nutrient delivery, smørrebrød is a work of art, pleasing to the eye and extremely easy to impress the observer.

The basic idea of smørrebrød is to TOTALLY cover the buttered rye-bread with toppings such as salad vegetables, shrimps, fish, meat, egg, cold cuts, sauces, cheese, liver paste… whatever you have in the fridge in the combination that you would like to eat them. DON’T even try to pick it up with your hands. Eat with fork and knife.


How to make your own Smørrebrød (Video instructions here!)
1. Cut a piece of rugbrød in half.
1*. Lavish butter on it (I didn’t have butter with me then)
2.-4. Start stacking your ingredients until you can’t see the bread.
5. Stack more ingredients.
6. Put sauce or something with a sauce (I had a last bit of marinaded herring in mustard)
7. Add more ingredients until your sandwich threatens to topple…. then, DEMOLISH IT!

That was my version from ingredients that were available in my refrigerator at that time. Check out these typical Danish combinations from the Danish Food Culture Website!

Smørrebrød. Rugbrød.
It’s healthy, delicious, pleasing to the eye. I’ll miss you, roallb-bploallhh. I’ll miss you, smouhr-bploallh.

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Home, Swe(e/a)t, Home

In Eats on June 29, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Nom time!!!!

Picture source: <http://trendsupdates.com/cheap-food-in-singapore/&gt;

After a couple of days of traveling (15h CPH-AMS train + 15h AMS-FRA-SIN flight), I am now back in my little food heaven. Yeh, after 11 months of adapting to European cuisines and stifling super-civilized dining culture…HERE I AM, FINALLY, where stuffing the face with food, eating with hands, binging at  buffets, food trails, and talking about the best rojak / laksa / etc in town are once again accepted social behavior that are embraced with explosive enthusiasm.

Gosh I have so many food cravings to satisfy that I wonder if these 5 weeks back in sweltering Singapore will even be sufficient to consume all those calories….Though Singapore might be so small that you could see it in a day (710km^2 vs NL’s 41,526km^2 and DK’s 43,098km^2), to really really experience Singapore’s eating obsession…. that would probably take you a year and a half of breakfasts lunches dinners and suppers. 🙂

I guess I won’t be cooking till I settle back down in the Netherlands for my master’s thesis. So for these 5 weeks home + 2 weeks traveling in Czech Republic + 3 weeks organic farming in Hungary, I’m just gonna be one munching machine.

Till then, hang around and I will be showing you some of my favourite EATS, and probably do some catching up on backlogged recipe posts. 😉

So Long Scandie #2 – Danish Cultured Milk

In Danish, Eats on June 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm

This is one rare week that I’m absolutely certain that I have met my recommended calcium intake requirements… AND… I’m also pretty sure that any wars the ‘good’ bacteria in my colon had been fighting have been triumphant (rmb the Vitagen advertisement with the little soldiers flying through the intestines?).

Tykmælk. Check.

Ymer. Check. A38. Koldskål. Check. Check.

Together with my daily gobbles of milk and ice cream, and the windfall of cheese I earned from the housemate (thanks U!), I hereby proclaim that I’m officially done with milky stuffs for now and I’m absolutely looking forward to having some good ol’ soy milk / douhua / soy ice cream (oh Mr Bean!)  in <2 weeks!

Though I did enjoy these cultured milk products with fruit, raisins, muesli, lingonberry jam, soya bean agar ( I used vanilla soya milk with agar agar), crispbread crumbs, crisp cookies etc etc, I must admit that I was rather disappointed with the lack of difference between the products, and especially the lack of communication of the nature of these products that are so differently named. Is it too much to expect a different product when buying something of a different name? I mean all the sourdough breads with different cultures ARE still called, sourdough bread, aren’t they?

Like yoghurt, these cultured milk products have been inoculated with some species of lactic acid bacteria that ferment the lactose in the milk to produce lactic acid that lowers the pH of the product, causing the major milk proteins (casein) to coagulate and increase the viscosity of the milk. The plus points? The milk keeps longer, it suspends delicious crunchy goodies wonderfully and LAB bacteria are good for our gut. And so, if it’s Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, it’s called yoghurt. If it’s not, it HAS to be called something else. Gee, those food regulations.

TYKMAELK is cultured with Lactococcus lactis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides. Same consistency as yoghurt, but less acidic tasting (L. bulgaricus in yoghurt causes a tarter taste), hence it tastes great consumed with less sweetening than YOGHURT.

YMER is cultured with just Lactococcus lactis. It was less thick in consistency than YOGHURT and tasted pretty much the same to me as TYKMAELK, with a little hint of buttery flavour (diacetyl!).

A38 is a product of Arla, which is cultured with Lactobacillus acidophilus and some other unspecified strains (oh well). Tastes like BUTTERMILK to me, more sour than TYKMAELK and YMER, and with the consistency of YOGHURT.

[I’ve forgotten to take a photo of this, can you believe it??]

KOLDSKÅL is the most different from the lot, and is made with BUTTERMILK in combination with eggs, sugar, milk/cream/tykmælk, vanilla and citrus. Just like a flavoured YOGHURT DRINK, refreshing and usually enjoyed with crisp cookies a.k.a. kammerjunkers.


So much for food variety. If I were to make a choice, I’d just buy whichever is on offer at the supermarket and enjoy it with lingonberry jam and muesli! 🙂

So Long, Scandie #1 – Messmör

In Eats, Swedish on June 11, 2010 at 8:31 pm

It suddenly dawned on me that it is a mere 2 weeks before I wave goodbye to Scandinavia. Normally, when I travel to a new place, the first thing I would do is to comb the shelves of the supermarket and the list of ‘cuisine of XX’ on Wikipedia to make sure that I’ve eaten everything local that there is to eat. At least, everything affordable and remotely edible-sounding.


Recently, a fellow foodie friend (thanks, I!) bought for me some messmör (browned soft whey butter) from Sweden – apparently the OTHER ‘weird’ thing (besides brunost) that the Scandinavians do with the co-product (whey) of cheese production. It is like a semi-liquid brunost: whey that is boiled down a little less, without the cream, and with a little more sugar, to yield a spreadable whey ‘butter’ that is low in fat (5%), high in sugar (~50%) and tasting something like sweet boiled caramel milk with a creamy consistency.

I must say that it is pretty difficult for someone who didn’t grow up with it to take an instant liking to messmör, because it doesn’t quite fit the expectation of caramel (different lactose-type sweetness), nor butter (not quite as creamy), nor cheese (really really sweet), but it does grow on you. I first got accustomed to it on my hands-free bread (last FAB), and now I enjoy it on soft Swedish bread (got more again from Lund!).


Well, if that’s not convincing enough, perhaps knowing that it’s a more enjoyable form of whey supplement, high in good quality protein, calcium and iron would be an incentive to give it a shot 😉


While googling info about messmör, I realized I’ve overlooked the entire supermarket cultured milk shelf — the cartons of STUFF that resides above the milks and beside the yoghurts. The STUFF called : Tykmælk, Ymer, Ylette, A38, and Koldskål. They all come in the same dairy-style cartons, they all indicate some level of fat content (0,1% , 1,5% or 3,5%) in big bold fonts, and they all have ingredient lists that say ‘Højpasteuriseret homogeniseret sødmælk, syrnet med mælkesyrekultur’ — simply meaning pasteurized and homogenized milk soured with milk culture (i.e. some kind of lactic acid bacteria). What are the differences then, and are they so huge that they warrant this variety of labeling, boggling the mind of a frazzled foreigner who still can’t figure out the simplest Danish? Hey, that’s what I’m trying to find out now — I’ve currently eaten my way through one carton of Tykmaelk and half a carton of A38… would you care to join me to complete my mission? 🙂

FAB – Hands-Free Bread

In Baking, Friday Afternoon Baking, Recipes on June 5, 2010 at 6:49 pm

For these past 10 months in Europe, I have been forced to give up my normal diet of tropical veggies / soy products / surimi / seafood/ kueh / malay and indian foods and adjust to a diet very much based on seasonal vegetables, dairy and bread products. I think the largest change I had to deal with going from Singapore to Europe would be this difference in the variety of food, but also the absence of like-minded superduperly-food-obsessed companions (I think other cultural changes are slightly easier to deal with haha). There is no better homesick-therapy than dining with a friend who explodes in fireworks of joy over bakkwa (Chinese sweet bbq pork) and a bowl of plain rice porridge.

But 10 months is also long enough to start feeling at home in this different world of food, and one of the things I will miss very much as I delve back into my Asian food haven this summer would be the crusty and flavourful European breads. Perhaps it was a sign to start nurturing my bread-baking skills when this week, Fakta slashed the price of high gluten wheat flour from 18kr (2.4 euros/SGD$4.20) per 2kg to a third of its price.


Honestly, my experience with bread-baking is almost entirely limited to theoretical knowledge. Apart from knowing that the requisites include a high-protein flour (to form strong gluten networks to trap the gas bubbles and give the bread a good structure) and yeast (that generates CO2 bubbles and lotsa lotsa lovely aroma compounds as it ferments the starch)…. I’m pretty useless when it comes to practical bread-baking. Hence for starters, I’ve decided to try Steamy Kitchen’s No-Knead Bread recipe, that is apparently ‘so easy even a 4 year old could do it’.

My bread-baking skill level is evidently lousier than a 4-year old because I had some trouble following the instructions and ended up with quite a mess in the kitchen. I aborted the plan and decided to just shove my dough into the oven anyway and ended up with a pretty good result 🙂 Crispy crust and a soft spongey interior, though lacking in some saltiness and flavour. Well, I never eat my breads plain anyway — so I enjoyed it with a slop of salted butter and sweet thick honey. Delicious. 🙂 Goodbye <Gardenia>… Goodbye <Sunshine>….
Kneadless Bread-Baking adapted from Steamy Kitchen

  • 350-400g bread flour
  • 1/4 yeast cake- I’d double it next time for better flavour (1 yeast cake ~ 2.5 tsp instant yeast)
  • 1 tbsp salt ( I misread it as 1tsp and hence learned the importance of salt in bread flavour)
  • 350ml warm water
  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water then mix with the flour and salt using a spatula.
  2. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and leave to ferment overnight. Dough becomes puffy and stickier.
  3. Fold dough around in bowl with a spatula, flouring the surfaces of the dough to reduce sticking to the spatula. After 5min, dump it into a floured loaf tin and leave aside to rise for another 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 230˚C half an hour before baking. Cover loaf tin with aluminium foil and bake for 30 min. Uncover and bake for another 20 min or until golden brown and crusty.