Sunday, 16 February 2014

BAEJARINS BETZU PLYSUR - the best hotdogs in Iceland

Apparently this rather unusual place is supposed to be a must visit eatery in Reykjavik so of course we had to find it and try their fare.

Bæjarins beztu pylsur in English means ‘ The best hot dog in town’ and in Iceland is now known as  “Bæjarins beztu”.
According to their website it is 27592 days since the first hotdog was served at Bæjarins beztu and presumably they update this daily. According to my calculations  that means they have been serving hotdogs there for 76 years which seems amazing. In fact it opened in 1937 so indeed a good long time before we in the UK had ever heard of hotdogs I would hazard a bet.
In August 2006, ‘The Guardian’ put Bæjarins beztu as the best hot dog stand in Europe. They claim to be the best in Iceland but I am not sure that there is a lot of competition as they own all the hotdog stands in the city of Reykjavik anyway I think . If you manage to miss them in the city then they do also have one in Keflavik Airport too.

It is said that most Icelandic people have eaten at Bæjarins beztu. The one we went to was in a car park near the harbour and was certainly not really a place w would have eaten at had we not been told it was a place to check out in Reykjavik . It was rather insalubrious and yet in the queue there were men in suits and well dressed folk as well as some sitting in cars enjoying their purchased dogs. It looks like a basic caravan or hut type hot dog stand with red and white logo.

Icelanders are rather proud of their hotdog and stand and foreign tourists are brought here to sample the wonderful hot dogs, which some refer to as “the Icelandic national food.” It isn’t just your average visitor who eats here as the stand proudly shows on their board that President Clinton, when president of the United States was brought here and apparently James Hetfield from Metallica has also eaten a hot dog from here.

Well it looked pretty much like any other hotdog if I am honest but it was pretty tasty. It is a good meaty sausage and I was told that they not only have beef and pork but also lamb meat in their sausages so that is an essential difference.  The sausages are also supposed to be cooked in beer to add to the flavour. The bread roll is a white roll that is soft and quite light and shaped as any other hotdog roll is.
Their sauces and extras that are specialities include a ketchup which if Icelandic is a bit sweeter and used to have apple sauce in it but now is more like  the usual US style one we know.Then they add mustard is  the Icelandic Pylsusinnep or “hot dog mustard” which is  brown and not too hot or strong or it may be the  sweet yellow hot dog mustard. They also must have both crispy  fried onion and raw onion and finally the remolaði, which is a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish. If you want their specialty then you can either just point or ask in English as everyone speaks perfect English , for a hotdog with  “the works,” or if you are feeling brave try the Icelandic which is  “eina með öllu”.

 Can I sit and relax with a lovely view over the harbour? Well no. You either sit at the rather grubby looking wooden picnic style table or stand and eat you hotdog trying not to squirt any of the juicy contents over yourself while so doing.  The table is grubby and covered with evidence of visiting birds and there is no way I would have put my hotdog in the wooden stand on the table!  So you sort of stand around in the car park with other ‘diners’ enjoying your hotdog or you could walk a bit further away towards the harbour. As it was negative temperatures when we were there we didn’t walk away as our hotdog would have got cold before we had a chance to eat it.

I found this recipe in Huffington post in an article by Victoria Haschka and thought it would be interesting to try:
6 hot dog buns
6 pylsur sausages -(you can order them
4 tablespoons of Icelandic hot dog mustard  -
4 tablespoons of ketchup
4 tablespoons of remoulade
6 tablespoons of crispy deep fried onion
6 tablespoons of diced mild onions
beer to cook the sausages in -Icelandic Viking or Gull are both Icelandic beers, but I am sure any  lager will do the job.

Cook the sausages in the beer . While they are heating split and toast the bread rolls. Fill the rolls in this order, raw onion and one sausage then add a squirt of mustard,  remoulade and ketchup along each sausage and finally top then with the lovely crispy  fried onions.

The remoulade is a kind of mayonnaise made using:
3/4 cup of neutral tasting oil ,1 egg yolk ,1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons of chopped gherkin, 2 teaspoons of chopped capers, 1 tablespoon of chopped chervil. Make as you would a fresh mayonnaise then add the chopped gherkin, capers and chervil.

The sausages are certainly worth sourcing as they were much more tasty and meaty than the ones we have and a lot firmer too. The other parts you can easily re create so have a try.

In Reykjavik we paid about £2 for our hotdogs so not too bad for a unique experience. If you are heading for Reykjavik then if you are not a vegetarian do take a stroll down towards the harbour and join the queue for one of Iceland’s specialties. 

Cafe Loki Reykavik

Cafe Loki

My husband and I really enjoy trying different foods and when we travel we always try to eat or at least taste some of the local food. This does mean we have eaten some very strange things from deep fried locust in Beijing through to satay frog’s legs and an odd eel dish in Vietnam but along the way  we have eaten some great dishes too.

We tried to taste Icelandic food on our first night in the Iceland bar but they no longer did their tasters in small jars so the next day we made our way to Cafe Loki for lunch as they were supposed to offer Icelandic food. The cafe is open Mon-Sat. from 9.00-21.00 & on  Sundays from 11.00-21.00

Cafe Loki is just across the road from the lovely Hallgrimskirkja  church which dominates Reykjavik and so the view from the cafe is of the church which makes a great backdrop. We tried the front door but it was closed, luckily we noticed a sign saying use the side door so we tried that.

Into a small hall with a stair case leading upwards and on the left was a display of about thirty views of the Hallgrimskirkja church opposite  which were beautiful and taken over the past 15 years in variable weather and light. You could buy placemats of these if you wanted a souvenir which I thought was a nicer one than many souvenirs.

Once we arrived upstairs in the restaurant we were welcomed in and shown to a table. We were handed two menus  and asked if we wanted to order a drink but we just asked for tap water which was brought very quickly and we then noticed that there was a jug on  a table in the corner where we could help ourselves to more should we need to.

The restaurant was more like a cafe with basic pine furniture and bench seats in a small cosy room with about a dozen tables and windows overlooking Hallgrimskirkja  church so we had a good view and could also people watch as different visitors came towards the church and posed in front of it.

At the same time as our water was brought to us the waitress asked if we wanted to ask anything about the menu. We asked a couple of questions about specific dishes and then made our decision.

We ordered two Icelandic platters and a Brennivin between us to share. The Brennivin is a kind of clear snapps made from potato and flavoured with caraway, cumin, angelica and others and served in a shot glass. The idea is we were told, that you take a sip after you have eaten a chunk of the fermented shark to take the taste away!!

The platters came beautifully arranged with tasters of five Icelandic specialities. We each had two slices of rye bread which was much softer and sweeter than rye bread i have eaten before, almost like malt loaf but more bread like. On one of these was mashed fish, I think it was cod in a sort of creamy rich sauce and on the other was smoked trout which was very like smoked salmon.
The taster plate

We also had a piece of flatbread which to me was more like rye bread that I have eaten before and on this we had slices of smoked lamb which was very tasty and tender.

In a small pot we had some butter and then a piece of dried fish. I tried to break up the dried fish but it was too tough so I put the whole piece in my mouth and chewed it until it sogged enough. It was like boerwors or biltong only with fish rather than dried meat . I can’t say I’d rush to eat that again but it was interesting to taste and now I have tried it and ticked that one off.
The dried fish with butter

Finally we had a small bowl with three sugar lump sized pieces of fermented shark. I made my husband try it first and he said it was quite nice but he thought the Brennivin was disgusting. So I tried a piece. It tasted like the very strongest strong blue cheese rind but with a softer chewy texture. It was revolting but I was happy with the one piece and donated my other two pieces to my husband and I drank the Brennivin instead!
The fermented shark

I popped over to the table near the register and serving bar and helped myself to two more glasses of iced tap water. I was very tempted with a dessert but my husband was not interested and I am always aware that maybe I shouldn’t!! There were some very interesting Icelandic desserts such as rye bread ice-cream which I thought might be worth trying but my hips were pleased that my husband didn’t fancy anything.

Before we left we both made use of the very clean and unisex toilets as we planned a lot more walking around Reykjavik in the afternoon.

We paid by credit card and there was no problem taking that although we did discover that my card has begun charging for using it overseas so will be changing that.

All in all we thought the food was excellent and very well presented, a great way to sample the Icelandic specialities without being over faced with something you might not like. The waitress was helpful and spoke brilliant English and guided us through the choices when we needed help.

The cafe was not crowded but there were about four tables in use altogether. I would thoroughly recommend this cafe if you want the opportunity to try the unusual Icelandic foods in pleasant surroundings with friendly and helpful service.