Venturing into the land of the Midnight Sun, Sweden is a culinary treasure trove that goes well beyond just meatballs and Ikea fare. With a food culture rich in tradition yet innovative, it offers an impressive gastronomic landscape. Here are top tips for exploring Swedish cuisine to the fullest.
1. Start Your Day with a Swedish Breakfast
A traditional Swedish breakfast often includes items like hard and soft boiled eggs, caviar in tubes, crispbread, cheese, cold cuts, and muesli. Of course, don’t forget to try out the iconic Swedish coffee, known as kaffe.
2. Embrace ‘Fika’ Culture
Fika, a Swedish custom of a coffee break with something sweet, is integral to the Swedish lifestyle. The ‘Kanelbullar’ (cinnamon bun) is a classic fika favourite, but don’t limit yourself. Explore bakeries and cafés for a range of pastries and desserts.
3. Savour Seafood Delicacies
Sweden’s long coastline and numerous lakes mean seafood features prominently. Herring, in particular, is a must-try, traditionally served pickled or in a creamy sauce. Crayfish parties (‘Kräftskivor’) in August are a Swedish tradition not to be missed.
4. Experience Husmanskost
Husmanskost refers to traditional Swedish home-cooked food. Classics include ‘Köttbullar’ (Swedish meatballs), ‘Gravad lax’ (cured salmon with dill), and ‘Ärtsoppa’ (yellow pea soup), typically served with pancakes for Thursday dinners.
5. Be Adventurous with Surströmming
Considered a Swedish delicacy, Surströmming is fermented Baltic Sea herring with a notoriously pungent aroma. While not for the faint-hearted, it’s worth a try, often served with tunnbröd (thin bread), potatoes, and onions.
6. Try Out Semla
Semla, a cardamom-spiced bun filled with almond paste and whipped cream, is a favourite Swedish treat. Traditionally eaten on Fettisdagen (Shrove Tuesday), they are widely available and loved from Christmas until Easter.
7. Don’t Miss the Smorgasbord
The Smorgasbord is a traditional Swedish buffet-style meal, including various types of bread, butter, cheese, herring, salmon, other seafood, cold cuts, salads, and warm dishes. It’s a perfect way to taste a bit of everything Sweden offers.
8. Taste Swedish Spirits
Sample Swedish spirits, especially ‘Brännvin’ (a type of schnapps) and ‘Aquavit’, a flavoured spirit that is often consumed during festive gatherings. Pair it with a singing toast, or ‘Skål’, a traditional Swedish drinking ritual.
9. Visit Local Markets and Food Halls
For fresh, local ingredients, visiting markets and food halls is a must. Stockholm’s ‘Östermalms Saluhall’ or Gothenburg’s ‘Feskekôrka’ are perfect places to explore Sweden’s food culture.
10. Understand Food Etiquette
Swedes value punctuality, so arrive on time if you’re invited to someone’s home. Also, remember that it’s customary to say ‘Smaklig måltid’ (enjoy your meal) before you start eating.
Swedish food is more than what meets the eye – it’s a reflection of the country’s history, environment, and people. Embrace these tips and prepare to embark on a delicious journey through Swedish cuisine. Smaklig måltid!