The Fish Sandwich Culture

Sol over Gudhjem DENMARK smoked herring open sandwich

One of the most majestic members of the Smørrebrød family is Sun Over Gudhjem, after the Bornholm island town where the silvery-white herrings of the Baltic sea are transformed into golden fish by the smoking process, ‘the gold from the sea’.  

Sun Over Gudhjem is made with a slice of rye bread, two smoked herrings, chives, radish and a fresh raw egg yolk on top, the aforementioned sun.

But there is only one place to taste this delicious treat and that is on Bornholm. Despite its location midway between Poland and Sweden in the Baltic sea it is relatively easy to get there, two and a half hours by bus from Copenhagen.

Fischbrötchen GERMANY fish sandwich

According to those who know, the best fish sandwiches in Hamburg can be found at Brücke 10 on the pier. And one who knows better than most is Hamburg photographer and publisher Tilman Schuppius.

In 2011 he published the Fischbrötchen Report and it became so popular that he followed it with a second edition in 2015. Everything you want to know and see about the fish sandwich tradition of the German Baltic coast is here. His photography is stunning. Of more importance is his knowledge about the best places to visit to taste a particular fish sandwich.

The latest volume features 41 fish sandwich ‘snacks’ plus descriptions of fish sandwich stalls and ‘insider tips for travelers, weekenders and day-trippers’. ‘The culture of the fish sandwich plays an important role in the lives of the people of northern Germany,’ says Schuppius.

The Bismark pickled herring has pride of place in this fish sandwich culture. Crab has its own particular niche. Prawns are favoured by those who want something different to the fillet. Saithe (also known as coley and pollack) is very popular. Salmon remains a favourite. Smoked mackerel will always be special. Matjes, the young herrings caught between the first of May and the last day of August, is a rival to the other fillets because of their unique flavour.

And don’t forget the bread bun! Some prefer the soft bun, others the hard bun with a crunch.

The fish sandwich is never complete without onions, and these too must be special or the connoisseur will know the difference.

There are those who insist that a fish sandwich should contain nothing more than fish and onions. Yet again another debate. Where are the cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes?

It seems however that style is not the barometer, it is the substance, and that means that the fish sandwich may contain any kind of fish prepared in any number of methods and with whatever you want to put with it.

Balik Ekmek TURKEY fish sandwich

Istanbul is full of aromas that tease and tempt but none capture the tastes of this ancient city like the smell of grilled mackerel. Still known as a street food because of ancient associations with the fishers of the Bosphorus, balık ekmek is now synonymous with the tourist centres of Eminönü and the galata Bridge. Crunchy loaves and oily fishes are a throwback, one of the oldest traditional foods in the world. Here in Turkey they part of the fabric of life. The cooking time depend on the size of your mackerel.

4 mackerel, filleted
1 baquette, cut into four, halved
Lettuce, shredded
Onion, sliced into rings
Paprika flakes
Tomato, quartered
1 lemon, juiced
Oil, for frying

Heat a frying pan, add a thin drizzle of oil, place fillets flesh side down, cook for two minutes. gently flip over, cook for three or four minutes on the skin side. Place fillets inside the cut breads, dress with a choice of lettuce, onion and tomato, season with paprika flakes and finish with a splash of lemon juice.