Swedish delicacies part 3: surströmming

One of the most famous Swedish delicacies is of course surströmming. Surströmming is fermented Baltic Sea herring and is especially eaten in the Northern part of Sweden. I’ve always been curious to try new, weird foods and surströmming had been on my bucket list for a couple of years. Youtube is full of videos of people eating surströmming out of the can with bad reactions, but this wasn’t my plan, I wanted to have surströmming in the proper way.

My friend from Finland visited me here in Umeå and we decided to have a dinner with surströmming. She had never tried surströmming before, so it was something new for both of us. During fall surströmming is sold almost everywhere and during other seasons it is available in the bigger supermarkets. Someone recommended me to open the can outdoors inside a plastic bag in order to avoid getting my clothes dirty and smelly. The smell is pretty bad when you open the can, I’d describe it as a mix of sewer and rotten eggs, but it didn’t make me feel sick or anything, it was just unpleasant.


For a surströmming dinner you need:

  • A can of surströmming
  • Messmör (butter)
  • 4 cooked potatoes
  • Tunnbröd (flatbread)
  • 1 red onion

Sour cream dressing:

  • Sour cream
  • Västerbottenost, shredded
  • Chives

Surströmming is usually eaten on a tunnbröd sandwich with a bunch of other ingredients to reduce the strong taste.  You can cut the surströmming fillets into smaller pieces if you want, and put the ingredients on the bread in any order you like. My friend had read that for drinks, a soda called “Bords dricka” was recommended, so we bought a bottle of that as well. I’ve heard that milk is also good, since it’s supposed to neutralize the taste of surströmming.

I ate about half a fillet on the sandwich and came to the conclusion that surströmming is not my cup of tea. The taste wasn’t as bad I had imagined, but it wasn’t good either. My friend tried to force herself to like it and ate like three fillets, but it didn’t work and she gave up. Bords dricka tasted like a mix of Coca Cola and Fanta so it wasn’t anything special. But the worst part was probably Messmör, it was like sweet butter with a really weird texture. I still have it in my fridge and been trying to come up with something to use it for… If you start eating surströmming when you are little, you get used to it, and many Swedes actually like it a lot. So the earlier you start, the better surstömming eater you will be!

I heard later that eating surströmming in the apartments is usually NOT allowed, since the smell might stick to the walls or something. So if you prefer being safe than sorry, it’s better to eat it outdoors.


Written by Leonilla

30 Nov 2015