The most memorable thing about my trip to Aarhus and Copenhagen turns out to be a humble little hot dog. Yes, a hot dog! Steff-Houlberg is a name familiar to many hot dog lovers. It’s a fast food chain from Denmark that started its first sausage stall in 1921.
A typical Steff ‘red’ hot dog consists of a red, long and thin sausage, usually boiled and stuffed in a soft roll, topped with pickles, onions and lotsa condiments.
However, my experience from trying different Steff stalls resulted in various levels of ‘yum’. The overall taste is pretty much the same, but it’s the little things that makes a standard, off-the-stand hot dog that much more enjoyable.
My favourite Steff was actually the very first one that I tried in Aarhus – the second largest city in Denmark. This, to me, was special Steff. The soft rolls were lightly grilled, warming the bread and giving it a slight crispy exterior and a soft, chewy interior. We asked for ‘the works’ which included cheese, fresh diced onions, crispy fried onions (ristede) and a dollop of sweet relish. Topped with mustard and ketchup, we were ready to have a messy good time.
As we ventured across the rest of Aarhus and Copenhagen, the ‘Steffs’ we encountered were of the ‘nothing-to-shout-about’ variety, they kept their standards, but no one grilled the soft rolls, there wasn’t any relish in sight and only sliced pickles in its place. Some came overwhelmed by raw, chopped onions which I promptly swept aside.
I have been raving about the red hot dog (røde pølser) but in a sausage wagon, you will find a whole variety of other sausages like the grilled chicken ones or the smoked pork versions. Typically, the original way of eating the sausage in Denmark is with some ketchup, Danish remoulade (similar to a tartar sauce), mustard and the sausage is separate from the bread.
I never knew I could reminisce so much about a sausage in a bread roll, but I do remember that first bite with much droolworthy fondness. Just as Humphrey Bogart once said ‘A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz’. There wasn’t a ball park in sight where we were in Denmark, but the hot dog was indeed better than many meals we had in the local restaurants.