You rarely find a food item that polarizes as clearly as liquorice. At least in my experience, people either love it or they completely dislike it. There’s rarely an in-between. And liquorice has the potential to drive a huge wedge between the Danes and the foreign population of Denmark, because Danes have a tendency to put liquorice (“lakrids” in Danish) on EVERYTHING, which us foreigners sometimes really can’t understand (or stomach!). Today, I’m sharing some facts about the Danes and their love for “lakrids”, and my list of top 5 things that really didn’t need liquorice in/ on them.
What is liquorice, and why is Danish liquorice special?
As you probably know, liquorice is a confectionery made from the extracts of liquorice plant roots. Usually, this extract is mixed with sugar to produce a soft, chewy and sweet candy. Now, Danish liquorice is salty, which is why it is quite off-putting to most foreigners, who are not used to the specific taste. The salty taste comes from ammonium chloride, with which the liquorice is flavored. Salty liquorice is also popular in other Nordic countries, like Sweden, and is often called “salmiak”. Apart from the chewy variety, you can also find hard candy bonbons called “Tyrkisk Peber” (Turkish pepper), which can have a certain spiciness.
Why do the Danes love liquorice?
Now that is a good question. Especially the salty variety is immensely popular. Brands like Haribo (although that’s German) or Pingvin have a wide selection of liquorice candy, bonbons, strings and the typical snails, which are sold at every 7Eleven, supermarket, movie theater and kiosk in the country. But the Danes also love getting creative with liquorice when they’re cooking. Danish flagship company Johan Bülow have actually published an entire cookbook for cooking with liquorice, and they also publish a lot of recipes on their website. And as if that wasn’t enough liquorice for ages, there’s even a liquorice festival which takes place each year in Copenhagen. Yeah, you read that right - a festival.
Top 5 things that could really do without liquorice
Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I don’t mind liquorice. During a movie night, I can totally snack on some Haribo snails or liquorice drops. I also really like the Johan Bülow chocolate-coated liquorices (in moderation). But in my opinion, the Danes tend to take it a bit too far sometimes. Here are my top 5 things that should keep a safe distance from the black root.
5) Ice cream
This summer, I’ve noticed it more and more, maybe because I was eating a ton of the stuff in my search for Copenhagen’s best ice cream, but the Danes love themselves some “lakrids is”! Not only can you get it at your local ice cream store, no, you can also pick up a package in your supermarket of choice. I don’t know about you, but I think ice cream and liquorice is a really strange combination!
Like with ice cream, it has become a trend to incorporate liquorice flavors into other desserts as well. The internet is full of recipes for cakes with liquorice, flødeboller with liquorice, cookies with liquorice, cupcakes with liquorice, and if you run out of ideas for things you could potentially put liquorice IN, you can always just put it ON TOP (e.g. of “koldskål”), because that’s what “lakrids drys” was invented for!
I know that there are some alcohol varieties that taste naturally taste like liquorice (Sambuca or Ouzo, for example). But I’ve also seen cocktails on the menu of different bars (and even tasted one myself) that had liquorice powder stirred in or the aforementioned “lakrids drys” on top. Too much, people! Clearly too much.
2) Savory food
It has become a trend to expand the use of liquorice beyond the dessert universe and into the world of meat, fish and other savory dishes. For example, check out this recipe for chicken with liquorice marinade. Not even the Danish classic, Flæskesteg, is safe from being marinated in the stuff! Now, if you’re brave, try making one of these and let me know what you think!
Now, this one ABSOLUTELY takes the cake. Why in the name of all that is good and holy do I need salt that tastes like liquorice? Irma’s website suggests I put this in my tomato sauce - why on Earth could I possibly want to do that? It is completely mind-blowing to me that people would actually buy this. And it definitely deserves first place on this list!
What’s your take? Do you like the Danish liquorice? And do you have any additions to my list?