I mentioned, in my last post, that they’re pretty seafood crazy here in Hamburg. Specifically, they seem to really love fish sandwiches, because pretty much everywhere you go near the water, there are about a million different vendors serving them up.
The most famous sandwiches are the Bismark, which consists of pickled herring and onion, and Matjes, which consists of a different type of pickled herring, also served with onion.
I should probably note that the last time I had pickled herring, I hated it. I also really don’t like raw onion.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Michael, if you don’t like pickled herring, and you don’t like raw onion, why would you eat a sandwich that consists entirely of pickled herring and raw onion?
That’s an excellent question.
I mean, other than the fact that I’m clearly insane? I just felt obligated. These sandwiches are such a big deal here that I needed to know what all the fuss was about, even if I was pretty confident I wasn’t going to enjoy it. I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised.
I was not pleasantly surprised.
The pickled herring was as I remembered it — fishy, vinegary, mushy, and in your face. It’s an acquired taste if there ever was one, and it’s a taste that I have very decidedly not acquired. Though I typically don’t like raw onion, it was actually kind of welcome here, if only because it was the only thing to cut the pungent intensity of the herring.
Of the two sandwiches, I definitely preferred the Matjes — it was, at least, a bit mellower. It wasn’t quite the unforgiving assault of fishy sourness. But no, it wasn’t particularly good — just slightly less unpleasant than the other one.
Adding insult to injury? That fishy, oniony flavour lingered on my palate for the entire day. It was the worst.