Copenhagen Food & Drinks

The Ultimate Guide to Smørrebrød

The book titled
‘Open Your Heart to the Danish Open‘ – referring to the famous Danish open sandwich – by Ida and Mia Davidsen, descendants of the famous Davidsen family who have been preparing and serving Danish food for 100 years, is a dream trip into Denmark’s gastronomic heritage.

Gastronomic may not seem applicable here, but smørrebrød is much more than a simple open sandwich, certainly when it comes from the capable Davidsen’s hands.

Smørrebrød, originally smør og brød, – literally ‘butter and bread’ – is a piece of dense, sour-dough rye bread with typical Danish topping.  It is a dark, heavy bread which is often bought pre-sliced, in varieties from light-coloured rye, to very dark, and refined to whole grain.

Pålæg (literally “on-lay”), is the topping. This is the base on which the art of the famous Danish open sandwich, smørrebrød is created: A slice or two of pålæg is placed on the buttered bread, and then pyntet (decorated) with the right accompaniments, to create a tasty and visually appealing food item.

Traditional toppings include pickled herring, thinly-sliced cheese in many varieties, sliced cucumber, tomato and boiled eggs, liver-paste, cured or processed meat in thin slices, smoked fish such as salmon, mackerel in tomato sauce, pickled cucumbe, and rings of red onion. Mayonnaise mixed with peas, sliced boiled asparagus and diced carrot, called italiensk salat (lit. Italian salad), remoulade or other thick sauces often top the layered open sandwich, which is usually eaten with utensils. It is custom to pass the dish of sliced breads around the table, and then to pass around each dish of toppings, and people help themselves.

Hundreds of combinations and varieties of smørrebrød are available, and some traditional examples include:

  • On a piece of dark rye bread, a layer of liver pâté, topped with a slice of salt beef and a slice of meat. This is all decorated with raw onion rings and garden cress.
  • Smoked eel on dark rye bread, topped with scrambled eggs and sliced radish or chopped chives.
  • Slices of smoked salmon on rye bread, topped with shrimp and decorated with a slice of lemon and fresh dill.

But for the ultimate guide to Danish smørrebrød there is Ida and Mia Davidsen’s book, all the recipes cherished and perfected by generations of Davidsens.

Open your heart to the Danish Open‘ is full of inspiring and easy-to-do recipes for 110 different pieces of Smørrebrød selected from the world’s longest list of smørrebrød. Here you will find the more traditional kinds such as ‘Vet’s Midnight Snack’, ‘Smoked Eel with Scrambled Eggs’ and ‘Roast Beef with Remoulade’, but also the more modern and sophisticated kinds such as ‘Roger Moore’, ‘Sunshine in Denmark’ and ‘Princess Alexandra’. The latter consists of a sliced salmon roll filled with wasabi flavoured cream cheese and garnished with crayfish tails and salmon roe.



Roger Moore has written the foreword and a chapter on the Davidsen Dynasty tells the story of more than 100 years of unbroken family tradition for quality and Danish culinary art.

To buy this book or to to find out where you can sample all these delicious varieties of smørrebrød without making them yourself, visit the website of Ida Davidsen’s restaurant in Copenhagen.