How is it that the simple hot dog has become the meal of choice for tourists everywhere in Iceland?
- The taste – apparently they are made with a combination of lamb, beef and pork. They definitely taste different to American or British hot dogs. They are usually offered with fresh and/or dried onions which I’m not a fan of but I’m told they add to the taste. I’ve also seen them with bacon, chilli, cheese…
- The sauces they come with – not just the boring old mustard and ketchup, but peculiarly spicy mustard and a remoulade (mayonnaise) sauce are standard. Something about these flavours works really well together.
- The price – it’s hard for tourists to find what seems like an “average” restaurant in Iceland. Food options tend to be either fast food, or very high quality with the price tag to match. It’s not easy for us to find something in between. Pylsur are cheap.
- The convenience – quick and easy to eat, whether you are on the road or in any town of a reasonable size, you can count on being able to get them even if there is nothing else The fact that you can buy these beauties in petrol stations still amazes me – even more so because these are still usually really tasty, good hot dogs. If they sold them in petrol stations anywhere else, they would be the cheapest, nastiest version of hot dogs you can imagine.
- The atmosphere they are produced in – I’m starting to think this is unfortunately the key factor. I have brought home Icelandic hot dogs from the airport, along with the sauces and they don’t taste the same at home. Maybe you have to be eating them fresh from the grill while standing outside in cold air to really appreciate them.
I love that the pylsur are so much a part of daily life that one of my favourite TV shows, Naeturvaktin (more to come on this), has a recurring character of a man in who comes in to the petrol station just to get his pylsa, while still in his bathrobe. He is a self described invalid who doesn’t have a lot to say for himself.
Recently I finally went to the tourist trap of all hot dog stands, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. If you were to ask someone where to get a hot dog in Reykjavik, this would be the place they would send you. For some reason, you are supposed to want to go there just because Bill Clinton did. It was worth a visit just to see what all they hype was about, and the hot dogs were very tasty. Something I don’t understand – why don’t they open a few more of these stands instead of just one? They would make a fortune.
It’s interesting to me that as fast food entered a nation that had previously had a very healthy diet, Icelanders took the hot dog and made it their own.
Have you ever had Icelandic pylsur? Do you love them as much as I do?