Icelandic hot dogs (“pylsur”) – a love story

How is it that the simple hot dog has become the meal of choice for tourists everywhere in Iceland?

Waiting to be lovingly eaten by me

  1. 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…
  2. 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.

    We are happy hot dogs eating other happy hot dogs. Actually, it reads "Icelanders eat SS hot dogs."

  3. 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.
  4. 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.

    Petrol station version, yep, still edible

  5. 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.

He doesn't say a lot but he has a minimalist brilliance on Næturvaktin

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.

The famous hot dog stand by the harbour

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?

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11 thoughts on “Icelandic hot dogs (“pylsur”) – a love story

  1. Pyslur are my all-time favorite food, maybe ever. Certainly my favorite food in Iceland. At times I dream of taking out a student loan entirely for the purpose of flying back over and gorging myself on Icelandic hotdogs. They served me one with remoulade and shrimp salad. It was amazing.

  2. Somehow, I missed pylsur when I was there (another reason to go back to Iceland). It’s the skyr I miss and still dream about – that stuff was amazingly good.

  3. When i was stationed Keflavik NAS (USAF) I would always stop at the taxi stand on the back to the barracks and get two dogs and pepsi. Even the pepsi tasted better over there. I sure do miss them and there isnt a Whole Foods in my neck of the woods (NM).

  4. Pingback: (some of) the hostels of iceland | an irish travel guide

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