A Guide to Eating Surströmming: Conquering the King of Stench

Eating Surströmming

blog authorBy Johanna Hansen shield verification Verified Expert

    Surströmming – the very name evokes a sense of trepidation, intrigue, and perhaps even a hint of nausea. This fermented herring delicacy, a cornerstone of Swedish culinary tradition, is notorious for its pungent aroma. But for the adventurous eater, surströmming offers a unique and unforgettable taste experience.

    So, are you brave enough to take on this odiferous challenge? Here's your guide to eating surströmming the right way, transforming apprehension into appreciation.

    Understanding Surströmming

    While its pungent smell may be daunting to some, surströmming is a cherished part of Swedish culinary heritage, enjoyed by many for its unique taste.

    • The Fermentation Frenzy: Swedish Surströmming is herring that undergoes a lengthy fermentation process using salt and lactic acid bacteria. This process breaks down the fish's flesh, creating a strong odor and a complex, salty flavor.
    • Seasonal Specialty: Traditionally, surströmming is produced during the spring and early summer, when herring are most abundant. This ensures the fermentation process takes place during warmer temperatures, influencing the final flavor and aroma.

    How To Eat Surströmming

    How To Eat Surströmming

    Here's a guide on how to eat Surströmming, embracing the traditional method to fully appreciate this unusual dish.

    Preparation is Key:

    • Location, Location, Location: The pungent aroma of surströmming is undeniable. Respect your fellow travelers and choose your consumption location wisely. Head outdoors, crack open a window, or find a secluded picnic spot.
    • Gear Up: Newspaper or disposable gloves are your allies in this fishy battle. Newspapers will help contain any spills or splatters, and gloves will prevent the pungent odor from clinging to your hands.

    The Surströmming Ritual:

    1. The Great Unveiling: Open the can with caution! Point the can away from yourself and others, as the pressurized gases can create a forceful spray. It's best to do this outdoors or near a well-ventilated area.

    2. Embrace the Aroma (from a Distance): Take a deep breath of fresh air before peeking inside. The distinctive aroma of surströmming is a heady mix of salty, sour, and pungent notes. Don't be discouraged – this is all part of the experience!

    3. Drain the Liquid: Surströmming comes swimming in a potent brine. Tilt the can over a bowl or container to drain the excess liquid. This can help lessen the intensity of the smell and flavor.

    4. Prepare Your Accompaniments: Surströmming is traditionally enjoyed with a variety of accompaniments that help balance its strong flavor profile. These include chopped red onion, diced boiled potatoes, buttered tunnbröd (a thin flatbread), crème fraiche, and sometimes even chives or dill.

    5. The Moment of Truth: Using a fork (and maybe those gloves!), carefully remove a piece of herring from the can. Pair it with a potato slice, a dollop of crème fraiche, and a sliver of onion. Take a small bite and savor the complex flavors. The initial taste might surprise you – it's salty, sour, and surprisingly umami-rich.

    6. Chase it Down: A strong drink can help cleanse your palate after each bite. Snaps, a traditional Swedish schnapps, is a popular choice. Alternatively, beer or even a glass of aquavit can complement the flavors.

    Tips for First-Timers

    • Small Portions: If you're new to surströmming, start with small portions to gradually acclimate to its strong flavor.
    • Respect the Tradition: Remember, surströmming is more than just food; it's a part of Swedish heritage and culture. Embracing the experience with respect can make it more enjoyable.
    • It's Not for Everyone: There's no shame in admitting defeat. If the aroma or taste is simply too intense, don't force it. There are plenty of other delicious Swedish dishes to explore.

    Beyond the Bravado

    In conclusion, eating surströmming is an adventure that offers a glimpse into Sweden's rich culinary traditions. Whether you're a daring foodie or simply curious about traditional Swedish cuisine, surströmming provides a unique taste experience that's deeply rooted in the country's culture.

    For those inspired to explore Sweden and its culinary delights, including the daring experience of tasting surströmming, renting a campervan from Campervan Sweden offers the freedom to journey through the beautiful landscapes and vibrant cities where these traditions come to life. Embark on your Swedish culinary adventure with Campervan Sweden, and discover the flavors that define this fascinating country.

    Let’s go on an adventure!

    Unbeatable prices. Premium customer service.

    Campervan Sweden Logo BOOK NOW