If you’ve heard about the Icelandic nightlife culture, you might think you already have a pretty good idea of how saucy Icelanders can be…You have no idea.
The Icelandic relish their sauce to an almost obsessive degree and from a young age, we are taught that some things are just inedible without sauce. Here are some of our favourites:
It might be a well-known fact that the Dutch like to dip their French fries in mayonnaise, but you might not know that here in Iceland, we have a special relationship with something we call Cocktail sauce.
To many Icelanders, it would be completely unfathomable to eat a portion of fries without this essential condiment. It’s a staple to other dishes such as a dipping sauce for your melted cheese sandwich or a side for the classic “egg in a bread”.
It’s basically a mix between mayonnaise and ketchup with a drop of mustard and Worcestershire sauce depending largely on your upbringing. And people are brought up with it! Once a child is done breastfeeding, it’s highly likely they will have tried cocktail sauce and loved it!
So, if you order a burger and fries and a pinkish orange sauce comes with it that looks a little like Marie Rose sauce (if you know what that is), then you know it’s the Icelandic favourite cocktail sauce.
Every British person that I have exposed to Remúlaði has instantly loved it. The vinegary mayo relish has time and time again been an instant hit prompting my friends to start putting it on everything, a practice that would deeply disturb many Icelanders who cannot conceptualise eating the tasty condiment on anything but fish, beef sandwiches and of course the ubiquitous Icelandic hot dog.
I suggest picking up a bottle for yourself and see if you get the bug! The Gunnarsson brand is the best in my opinion and you can find in most supermarkets as well as at the ‘Pure Food Hall’ shop at Keflavík International Airport.
This is another staple on the Icelandic hot dog as well as a fundamental ingredient of cocktail sauce and it has a sweeter taste than many mustards and an almost grainy texture. It literally translates to hot dog mustard and it is used for just that. I asked a colleague to be sure:
“Do you know anyone that uses pylsusinnep for anything apart from hotdogs?”
“No! Why would you?!”
A fun fact is that when Bill Clinton visited, he visited the most popular hot dog vendor in downtown Reykjavík, Bæjrins Beztu and asked for a hot dog with only mustard. Since then, a hot dog with only mustard is called a Clinton and a picture of the revered event is framed inside the hot dog booth.
The Icelandic relationship with bearnaise sauce reflects a deep and meaningful love affair with butter. In most countries, the classical French sauce comprised primarily of butter, egg yolk and tarragon, is almost exclusively eaten with prime cuts of beef, most often steak.
In Iceland, this is not the case. Icelanders eat bearnaise. with. everything. Lamb, burger, fries, even on pizza! It’s not normal but it keeps up happy, especially in the wintertime! On with the butter!
Karrýsósa (‘curry sauce’)
If you’re expecting actual curry sauce, don’t hold your breath, you will be disappointed. This weird yellow viscous liquid is not spicy nor does it really taste of curry.
It’s not entirely bad though and when accompanying the traditional fish balls it gives a certain warmth and fullness to the already stodgy but satisfying meal, making it a stock favourite for natives from a very young age.
Hvítlauksósa (‘garlic sauce’)
Considering the name suggests garlic is the main ingredient, this sauce is actually not too spicy and saucier than it is garlicy. It’s worth a mention on this list since many an Icelander could not imagine a barbeque or baked potato without this essential condiment.
Other sauces worth mentioning are pítusósa (‘pita sauce’), piparsósa (‘pepper sauce’), that weird pink sauce that comes with fishballs and Hamborgarasósa (‘Hamburger sauce’). Oh, and we also like to eat berry jams with lamb.
Would you like to learn more about Icelandic cuisine? Read Food in Iceland | An Introduction to Icelandic Cuisine. Find out about the Best Restaurants in Reykjavík here.
Photo credit: www.nammi.is