Everything you need to know about the Icelandic “pulsa”

If there is anything Iceland is more famous for than fish, it is undeniably it’s hot dog, locally known as “pulsa” (or “pylsa”, depending on the person you’re asking).

Normally, it’s anyone’s guess as to what specific ingredients are in a hot dog, but in Iceland, where sheep double the population of humans, the hot dogs themselves are made from mostly lamb.

And if you’re into that whole free range thing, rest assured that these sheep live in one of the most pristine environments on earth. Their owners set them free to roam the highlands in the early spring, where they fatten up eating grass and berries until the famous sheep round-ups in the fall.

Let’s look at some note worthy facts regarding this sought after, relatively simple but unskippable meal.

Nestled into a toasted bun is a layer of chopped raw onions and locally made apple ketchup. On  top of that sits the mostly lamb hot dog, which is then topped with french fried onions, a slightly sweet brown mustard called Pylsusinnep, and a Danish remoulade made with mayonnaise, capers, mustard, and herbs.

Even if you think you won’t like all those Icelandic hot dog toppings, at least try a pylsa with everything once. It’s oh-so-worth potentially dripping some of those toppings on you.

In Iceland, you can find a “pulsa” everywhere, and we mean everywhere.

From the corner store to the gas station, it’s nearly impossible not to stumble upon an Icelandic hot dog. You can even pick up packages of the mostly lamb dogs and bottles of Pylsusinnep and remoulade at the airport to assemble your very own Icelandic hot dogs at home.

The one place that you absolutely can’t miss trying a pylsa from, though, is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. The hot dog stand is Iceland’s most famous restaurant and the name translates to the best hot dog stand in town. And without sounding hyperbolic, it really does live up to it’s name.

Bæjarins Beztu opened in 1937 and has been in continuous operation by the same family since. When it first opened, it was located on Austurstræt but moved to Tryggvagata across from the Harpa Concert Hall in the 1960s.

It’s little more than a red shack with a few picnic tables outside, but its unassuming look hardly keeps anyone away. It’s pretty hard to miss; just look for the line usually inching around the block, especially if you’re looking for a late night snack after the bars close.

Most of the population of Iceland has eaten a hot dog from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. Celebrities like Bill Clinton and James Hetfield of Metallica have tried a pylsa there. You can even watch Anthony Bourdain partake in Iceland’s national dish during the first season of No Reservations.


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