Only a deeply twisted mind could look at an innocuous chocolate-coated liquorice ball and think you know what this needs? Seasoning. Or so I thought. Enter Sterkar Djúpur: the salt-and-pepper-covered sweet that has proven unfathomably popular with Iceland’s candy connoisseurs.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be given one of these sweets, perhaps by a seemingly well-meaning colleague, first you’ll be hit by an unexpected salty tang. The culprit? Ammonium Chloride. Apparently here in Iceland the compound isn’t just a cough medicine or shampoo ingredient, it’s also been a staple of the candy aisle since its 1930s popularisation. After the initial ammonia-based surprise has worn off, the sourness softens to reveal a peppery kick with subtle smoky undertones that perhaps fortunately doesn’t quite live up to the sweets’ flame-covered packaging.
In the interest of full disclosure—I’m not a fan of the nation’s favourite sweet (please don’t deport me, ÚTL), but I have to admit there’s nothing like the taste of spicy salty ammoniac to make you appreciate liquorice. In fact, the sweets’ chocolatey liquorice core is so beguiling that before you know it you’ve forgotten the initial unpleasantness and you find your hand reaching once again towards the packet, trapped in a self-destructive cycle that can only be broken when your fingers just find pepper dust and plastic.
Bizarre as they may seem, Sterkar Djúpur are not the result of some improbable culinary accident. They’re Freyja’s (Iceland’s oldest operating confectioner) answer to the Tyrkisk Peber craze that has taken Scandinavia’s sweetshops by storm in recent years. Can’t get enough of that distinctive spicy tang? Why not try some of Reykjavik’s other spins on the trend—perhaps ice cream dipped in molten liquorice and rolled in pepper powder or perhaps an enticingly grey Tyrkisk Peber cheesecake?
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