By Terry Baynes
Liquorice ice cream, liquorice jam, liquoricecake, liquorice potato chips, liquorice ketchup.
The Danes have long been crazy about liquorice. But their obsession has lately reached new heights, with the liquorice flavour making its way into just about everything edible. There’s even a liquorice food tour in Copenhagen.
Denmark’s love affair with the “sweet root” used to center on liquorice candy. Kids, shopping for their weekend candy in the local mix-it-yourself candy shop, would make a beeline for the long black laces, hard liquorice coins and chewy “salt bombs.”
But liquorice has transcended its candy origins. It has become a foodie favorite, spicing up dishes in gourmet restaurants and home kitchens. The shift coincided with the rise of New Nordic cuisine, which experiments with traditional foods and flavors in new ways.
Another major driver was the young Dane Johan Bülow, from the small island Bornholm, who believed that the potential of the mighty liquorice root wasn’t limited to sweets but should be explored in meats and savory dishes, baked goods and beer. In 2007 at the age of 23, Bülow launched the company Lakrids (liquorice, in Danish), which has since become a liquorice empire, selling a wide array of high-end liquorice delights around the world.
Bülow’s philosophy caught on. On a walk through Copenhagen’s trendy food market, Torvehallerne, liquorice abounds. One local company, Copenhagen Food Tours, offers a special one-and-a-half hour tour dedicated to the flavor.
The sensory journey starts off in Torvehallerne with a twig of liquorice root to gnaw on. It quickly takes a sweet turn with a liquorice meringue from the pastry shop, Sweet Valentine. Then a brief walk to hard candy-maker Sømods Bolcher whose strong, almost medicinal, liquorice lozenge instantly clears the sinuses.
That’s followed by fresh-churned liquorice ice cream from Is à Bella, a dark liquorice beer from the Bøgedal brewery, liquorice teas from Tante T and liquorice-flavoured flødeboller (chocolate-coated marshmallow creams) from the celebrated chocolatier, Summerbird.