In the hotly contested survey that concluded this month, stegt flæsk med kartofler og persillesovs, (slices of fried pork belly served with potatoes in a béchamel white sauce with parsley, for the uninitiated) was crowned the national dish of Denmark. In fact stegt flæsk, which represented Southern Jutland in Food Minister Dan Jørgensen’s poll, received almost 28,000 of the 63,000 votes cast.
This is ironic (and the Danes love irony almost as much as they love licorice) because the survey was part of Dan Jørgensen’s ‘food revolution’, an effort to get Danes to focus on eating healthier and more local foods. And yet stegt flæsk med kartofler og persillesovs is hardly a healthy food – in a recipe from Voresmad.dk the fat percentage is listed as an astounding 29%
Jørgensen himself voted for the potentially healthier – and much prettier — smørrebrød, which came in second with 17,000 votes, followed by hakkebøf as a distant third. For reasons known only to those who set up the survey, smørrebrød represented East Jutland and hakkebøf was the candidate from Copenhagen.
The purpose of the vote for Denmark’s national dish – aside from being a vehicle to get Dan Jørgensen to become a household name – was to draw attention to what Danes eat. The goal was not necessarily to glorify Danish food traditions, since spaghetti with meat sauce was originally in the running. Happily the ten final candidates were all tried and true staples of Danish cuisine, although frikadeller had mysteriously not made the cut.
Although the first round of voting was strictly based on popularity, the final round involved inviting celebrity chefs from different regions to prepare “New Nordic” versions of the top eight dishes. Few fans of stegt flæsk med kartofler og persillesovs, a popular and inexpensive meal, would recognize the winning version of the dish by Ninna Bundgaard Christensen. Christensen, a young sous chef at Comwell in Southern Jutland, created a fancier (and more stylish) recipe reflecting her interest in New Nordic cuisine – although she doesn’t stint on the butter.
The vote for Denmark’s national dish has been criticized as being a publicity stunt, but it did initiate a great deal of discussion about Danish food culture. “Danish and New Nordic Cuisine have become known the world over. But here at home in our own kitchens, we often forget our culinary roots. The national dish has helped us to rediscover and develop our food traditions,” Jørgensen said in a press release.
Will the rest of the world embrace the new Danish national dish? Probably not, because unfortunately there are very few places outside Denmark where you can get pork cut correctly to make stegt flæsk med persillesovs. Those who want to taste this specialty will just have to come to Denmark to discover this longstanding traditional tradition – either the New Nordic version (at Noma, perhaps?) or the version of stegt flæsk med persillesovs known and apparently dearly loved by working class Danes across the country.
PS We would have voted for smørrebrød!