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Food and Drink

Traditional Swedish cooking cannnot be compared with the sophistication of, say, French or Italian cuisine. Swedish food is usually simple and satisfying, and nowadays also healthy. In the last few decades immigrants from all over the world have enriched our food culture with a host of exciting dishes. Foreign fast food, for example, has become an inseparable part of Swedish youth culture.


Swedish smorgasbord
Swedish smorgasbord

The word smörgås means something like "open sandwich", and bord is the Swedish word for "table", but still a smörgåsbord is not a table full of sandwiches. This specialty instead consists of a number of small dishes, from which you can take your pick. An average smörgåsbord may, for instance, contain a number of herring dishes (sweet-pickled herring, pickled herring with onions, mustard, dill, etc.), Swedish meatballs, salmon, pies, salads, 'Jansson´s temptation' (sliced herring, potatoes and onions baked in cream), eggs, bread, boiled and fried potatoes and so on. Smörgåsbord was served already in the18th century but at that time it was used as an appetizer before the main course. Gradually, however, it has become a meal in itself. Today few people ask for more after having tried everything on a smörgåsbord.

Special Dishes

In the cities, there are always resturants where you can find a today´s special (dagens rätt) go to about 50 kronor. If you vistit a restarurant in the evening, you should be prepared to pay about 100 - 150 kronor for an average dish. Also, don´t forget that alcohol is very expensive in Sweden.

If you want to try some typical Swedish fast-food, you can go to a hot-dog stand (korvkiosk). There you can choose between fried and boiled hot dogs, served with French fries or mashed potatoes together with mustard and/or ketchup (Senap eller ketchup? you will be asked). Lately, som new dishes have turned up in the stands, like baked potatoes.

If you want to taste some Swedish homely fare you can try pea soup with pork and pancakes for dessert. This dish is usally served on Thursdays and if you want to go the whole hog you should order some Swedish punch for the pancakes, a yellow and very sweet alcoholic beverage, usually served ice-cold.

Pytt i panna, a hash of fried diced meat with onions and potatoes is another specialty. It is served with fried eggs and slices of pickled red beets. You can also try kåldolmar, or stuffed cabbage rolls, a dish brought home by King Charles XII (Karl XII) after an involuntary residence in Turkey, nearly three hundred years ago.
Swedish crayfish
Swedish crayfish

If you are here in August you might get invited to a crayfish party. The crayfish are boiled with dill, sugar and salt and you eat them using your hands. The meat is found in the claws and in the tail of the animal.

Midsummer is perhaps the Swedish greatest festival. This is one occasion where the smörgåsbord is served. Herring, meatballs and fresh potatoes are almost compulsory dishes, and usually a lot of snaps is served too.

Christmas and Easter have their own traditional dishes.There are also special days during the year for waffles and cream buns with almond paste (semlor); both these days occur in the spring, but you might find 'semlor' already in January.

Bread, Pastry and Coffee

Sweetness is a prominent characteristic of Swedish bread, although unsweetened types are available in most stores. If you want to spread something typically Swedish on a slice of bread, try messmör, which is a soft whey-cheese from the north of Sweden. It is quite sweet, too!

When it comes to drinking coffee, Swedes rank second in the world (per capita, of course). People usually drink coffee for breakfast, after lunch or during the highly esteemed coffee breaks, but there are also special coffee parties (kafferep). If you are invited to one, you can expect to find at least seven sorts of home-made buns and cakes, a kind of minimum amount according to Swedish housewives´standards.


If you try surströmming, or fermented Baltic herring, we are confident that you will never forget it. It is sold in cans, and when you open them a strong, foul smell is released, the result of a fermentation process. This method of preservation was invented long ago, when brining food was quite expensive due to the costs of salt. When fermentation was used, on the other hand, just enough salt was required to keep the fish from rottening. Surströmming is served with boiled potatoes and onions and often rolled into a slice of tunnbröd, a type of thin, flat unleavened bread. Although lots of people do not like it, you have to eat it a couple of times before you really appreciate the taste, there is a hard core of surströmming devotees, most of them in the north of the country.

Photos: Copyright © Kamerareportage

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