Sweden has access to some of the freshest flavors un Europe, farmed in the mellow climate of the south, or hunted in the unspoilt north.
Dishes are generally gentle and unchallenging, but Sweden’s cuisine throws up a few surprises. There are complex notes in its reindeer, boar and grouse, and a love of “wild larder” ingredients like angelica, caraway and tart red lingonberries.
Traditional Swedish dishes (husmannskost) are often updated for modern palates at the country’s best restaurants. Found on the table on Thursdays, ärtsoppa is a hearty pea soup served with pork. Pytt i panna, a hash of fried diced meat, onions and potatoes, is another specialty. Kåldolmar (stuffed cabbage rolls) are said to have been brought back from Turkey by King Karl XII in the 18th century. Alien to foreign tastebuds, sweet gloopy soups such as rosehip or blueberry soup are served hot or cold.
Swedes eat little pork links (prinskorv) at a smörgasbord. Another smörgasbord favourite is herring spiced with sandalwood (matjes), frequently eaten with boiled potatoes and sour cream.
In Skåne in southern Sweden, look out for spettkaka, a tower-shaped confectionary of sugar, eggs and potato flour baked over an open fire.
Also particular to Sweden is a delicious baked anchovy-potato-cream casserole known as “Jansson’s Temptation”.
Expedia in Sweden has made an interactive map, ‘Tastes of Sweden’, which takes you on a gastronomic tour of Sweden’s more unknown dishes with this interactive map. Explore each region’s food culture by downloading the recipes.
An acquired taste
A summertime favorite in northern Sweden is surströmming. Baltic herring that is salted and “soured” or fermented, then canned. The surströmming tin bulges ominously with still-fermenting gases; and when it is opened (always outdoors), the resulting stench often causes yhe uninitiated to run for the hills
Crayfish are eaten widely in Sweden in July and August, when they are boiled, peeled and served at outdoor parties, with plenty of singing and toasting. Guests wear colorful bibs to shield them from crayfish drip.
Written by Tor Kjolberg