Monday, September 3, 2012


I have gotten the impression that to truly experience Swedish culture, you must experience surströmming. Luckily, I have arrived just in time for surströmming season (although I'm not sure why it has a season if it is canned)! And doubly luckily, I have made the acquaintance of some Swedish folks who are fans of surströmming. So I can now say that I have tried this Swedish delicacy!

If you clicked the link to the wiki page, you will see a picture of the exact can of surströmming that we had. If you didn't click the link, let me just tell you that this fish gets a lot of hype. To me it has been described as rotten fish that has the strongest, most-horrible odor in the world. Ever. Technically it is just fermented and not rotten. But it does have a really strong odor. We ate it outdoors, which is the preferred method in order to keep your house from smelling for days afterwards. The smell was definitely strong enough outdoors to make me believe you would not want to open the can in your house. However, I think I was prepared for an even stronger smell. It was pretty entertaining to watch the can being opened inside a plastic bag in order to prevent the pressurized can from spraying rotten fish juice everywhere. It is definitely worth it to have professionals around for this stuff.

I managed to be an observer of how to get the edible parts out. Some people eat the skin, some don't. 

Despite the fact that the smell of surströmming is wretched, the taste isn't too terrible. It was really incredibly salty, and then had a sort of fishy after-taste. The flavor wasn't too distinct, but I also ate only a tiny tiny bite plain, and it was quite potent.

The normal way to eat it is as pictured: bread, spread with butter, then potatoes, then surströmming, then onion, tomato, more onion in sour cream or mayo, topped with a bit of dill. And when the fish is all decorated up like this, then it is really not so bad at all. Maybe I was just enjoying the experience, but part of me thinks that if I had prepared the same stack of food without the surströmming, it just might not have tasted as good. The bit of salty-fishy-ness was so slight that it just added a touch of flavor. Not so bad at all.

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