• Sweden's news in English
 

A beginner's guide to the Swedish food scene

Published: 22 Jan 2014 11:11 GMT+01:00

“New Nordic" cuisine has become a culinary keyword since Copenhagen restaurant “noma” popped up in 2004 and became a top-notch Michelin restaurant. It has been voted best in the world for several years in a row. But that's Copenhagen, this is Stockholm.

IN PICTURES: On the road with Stockholm Food Tours

I set off on a Stockholm Food Tour to find out if the Swedes are as impressive as the Danes. Guide Francisco assures me, as we hobble across cobblestones, that the foods featured on the Stockholm tour are uniquely Swedish, painting a much different culinary picture to the sister tours in either Copenhagen or Oslo. All three have been successful, and within six months of its birth last year the Stockholm tour climbed into the top ten activities for the city on Trip Advisor.

The food tour begins at Hötorget, which has been the scene of one of Stockholm's biggest marketplaces for centuries. The square got its name in 1644 and has remarkably kept its identity and significance since then. An actual food hall on the square was finished in 1884, and the current Hötorget Food Hall (Hötorgshallen) has stood since 1958.

Although Hötorgshallen is massive, the tour only makes one stop -  P&B Delicatessen (P&B Delikatesser). And no, P&B has nothing to do with peanuts or butter - though it was a lot to do with jelly. The initials stand for Pelle and Björn, two devoted jam-makers with a taste for the finer things in life. In Sweden that means heavenly hjortronsylt, or cloudberry jam, made from a remarkably expensive berry that is native to the Arctic tundra (think fat golden raspberries growing on the ground).

Tour participants also get a taste of beloved Swedish liquorice – and more eye candy than you can bear. Displays of dainty pastel-coloured macaroons are made with "Swedish" flavours such as saffron, apple-cinnamon, and pepparkaka (gingerbread).

From there it’s on to more conventional flavours, at the Chocolate Factory (Chokladfabriken). Or so we thought. The first sample: a tiny but intense cardamom truffle. Swedes are practically cardamom connoisseurs, with the oriental spice playing an essential role in traditional confections despite its far-flung origins.

“Cardamom is the third most-expensive spice in the world, right after saffron and pure vanilla,” Francisco grins as one tour member gingerly spits out the confection and wraps it in a napkin. Her wrinkled nose hints that such Swedish goodies may be an acquired taste – and delicacies don’t have to be delicious.

Chokladfabriken is somewhat of a foodie newbie, established in 1999, but has already carved out its niche at three locales in Stockholm. While all of the chocolates are made on location, the ingredients come from around the world, including Belgium and France.

The group wanders on to another food hall – older and grander than Hötorgshallen, the renowned Östermalms Saluhall. In 2007, it was ranked the seventh best indoor food market in the world, and Jamie Oliver himself has adopted the market as a personal favourite. Here we acquaint ourselves with Swedish cold cuts – reindeer salami, anyone? – and a cheeky lesson in Swedish cheese.

“They even put cardamom in their cheese!” Francisco announces cheerfully, to the mixed delight and despair of his followers, passing around a tray of spicey Boxholm cheese cubes. “And this,” he adds, moving on to a tray of Västerbotten, the king of Swedish cheeses, “is a very special cheese. Legend has it that the milk maid was stirring the cheese curd and was distracted by her lover, giving it its strong flavour and bitter notes.”

Unfortunately the cheese didn't find too many lovers among this particular audience, and the tour moves on.

Next is Pocket, the budget bistro little brother of French-Swedish favourite restaurant Pontus!, where traditional Swedish appetizer Toast Skagen is on the menu.

The tour tops off with a visit to a candy shop and then a rustic café in Old Town, where guests indulge in peppermint, fudge, coffee, and sweet cardamom buns. (Is there a trend here?)

After four hours the group has covered quite a bit of space, both geographically and on the food map. Contented moans confirm the satisfaction of many a full belly – although at 700 kronor ($108), the tour carries a hefty price tag considering the closest thing you get to a meal is an appetizer. The tour could use some fleshing out – in fact, an addition of meatballs wouldn’t be half bad.

Perhaps that would be too obvious. Scandinavia has a penchant – perhaps an obsession – for the new and unique, and the food tour’s concept in and of itself sheds light on a superfluous feud between the old and new. The focus is on New Nordic Cuisine, and the foods on the tour are decidedly traditional. There is a paradox in the fact that the manifesto of “New” Nordic Cuisine highlights traditional ingredients, methods, and dishes. It also focuses on (and even requires) local ingredients, whereas many of the ingredients we spotted on the tour came from around the world – Belgium, France, Italy, Estonia, etc.  

But that’s what Swedes are best at, borrowing ideas and ingredients and improving them, incorporating them into a uniquely Swedish identity. And while the foods on Stockholm Food Tour are not particularly new, nor so exclusively Swedish, the tour is four hours of Stockholm at its finest.

Solveig Rundquist
Follow Solveig on Twitter

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Video
Swede buys Soviet tank for winter fun
Jesper Lysell with his new tank. Photo: Private

Swede buys Soviet tank for winter fun

You’ve got $50,000 to blow on “something extravagant”. Do you buy a low-end sports car? Not if you live in southern Norrland, you don’t. You buy a tank. READ  

Sweden braced for fresh barrage of thick snow
A typical drive in Luleå on Friday. Photo: Facebook

Sweden braced for fresh barrage of thick snow

Large swathes of northern and eastern Sweden were preparing for a further dump of snow on Sunday, with the country’s national forecaster warning that as much as 30cm could drop on parts of the country. READ  

'The perfect workout': gym clears snow for free
Aerobic snow-shovelling on Saturday morning: Crossfit Holistics webpage

'The perfect workout': gym clears snow for free

A gym in northern Sweden has turned this week’s monster snowfall into “the perfect workout”, sending its members out for an hour on Saturday to shovel snow around the city for free. READ  

Pirate Bay back online seven weeks after raid
The Pirate Bay's homepage on Saturday. Photo: Screen grab

Pirate Bay back online seven weeks after raid

Sweden’s seeming unquashable file-sharing site The Pirate Bay is back online, seven weeks after police seized servers hosted at a data centre in a nuclear-proof bunker deep in a mountain outside Stockholm. READ  

Roma denied sleep complain of 'torture'
The banner erected by the Roma at Sorgenfri Folketshus. Photo: Solidarity with EU migrants

Roma denied sleep complain of 'torture'

A group of Roma immigrants have complained of “torture” and “terrorism” after security guards at a Malmö night café for homeless people refused to let them sleep on the premises. READ  

Israel 'not happy' at Abbas invite to Sweden
US Secretary of State meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan, in November 2014. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/TT

Israel 'not happy' at Abbas invite to Sweden

Israel’s ambassador has sharply criticised Sweden for inviting President Mahmoud Abbas to Stockholm next month, citing it as further evidence of the “energetic pro-Palestinian line” the country’s government has taken since coming to power after September's election. READ  

Beggars 'objectified' at Malmö exhibition
Roma migrants who have swapped the streets for an art gallery. Photo: Albin Balthasar

Beggars 'objectified' at Malmö exhibition

Two Roma beggars have been paid to take part in a controversial art installation that has seen them sitting and standing in silence with a paper cup in front of them in a Malmö art gallery. READ  

More open borders for Swedish nationals
An SAS plane taking off from Sweden. Photo: TT

More open borders for Swedish nationals

From this summer, Swedes may be be able to leave their passports at home when travelling to the UK and other non-Schengen countries within the EU. READ  

Thick snow set to cause further travel chaos
A sign warns about falling snow and ice in Stockholm. Photo: TT

Thick snow set to cause further travel chaos

UPDATED: Heavy snowfall has caused major traffic problems in parts of western and southern Sweden, with further bad weather set to sweep across the country this weekend. READ  

Presented by Verksamt.se
'Immigration is critical' for Stockholm’s future
The city of Stockholm. Photo: Björn Olin/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

'Immigration is critical' for Stockholm’s future

Stockholm’s business community gathered on Friday to discuss the future of the city’s labour market. While housing and education were mentioned, it was another theme that reigned supreme. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What’s on in Sweden this week
Sponsored Article
Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs
Gallery
IN PICTURES: European Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm
National
The return of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Lifestyle
Top five trends from Stockholm Fashion Week
Blog updates

30 January

Editor’s blog, January 30th (The Local Sweden) »

"Greetings from Sweden where much of the country is heading for what could be the coldest..." READ »

 

26 January

The mysterious -s, part 1 (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! How is your Swedish coming along? A while ago I read on a forum on The..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: January 28th
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
National
Does Sweden help returning Isis fighters more than Swedish veterans?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: January snow snaps
Society
Is Sweden's healthcare system a national embarassment?
Gallery
Property of the week: Skanör, Vellinge
Lifestyle
'Life as a Swedish candy-maker is sweet'
National
Why Sweden's Left party wants a European 'Red Spring'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's hottest new fashion designers for 2015
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Who travels on Stockholm's different subway lines?
Lifestyle
Why this Swedish baby is a US hit
Lifestyle
'Limousine' snowplough for sale
People-watching: January 24th - 25th
Gallery
People-watching: January 24th - 25th
Society
Meet the 'beggars' buttoning up immigration critics
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Madeleine through the years
Features
Learn Sweden's bizarre dating lingo
People-watching: January 21st - 22nd
Gallery
People-watching: January 21st - 22nd
Society
Why Sweden's viral 'genital' video is getting an English remake
National
Why does Sweden's Luleå have a giant ice beaver?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Who are Sweden's richest one percent?
Business & Money
How a classic Swedish snack got a revamp for 'busy' Stockholmers
Lifestyle
The Local's top Swedish acts for 2015
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Årets Bild photography prize winners
Business & Money
'I met my Swedish man in Tokyo's first Ikea store'
Gallery
Property of the week: A cozy apartment in Bromma, Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: January 17th - 18th
Lifestyle
How to make Swedish gravad lax
Lifestyle
Four hot Swedish home design trends
National
How The Local's video on a strange Swedish sound went viral
Gallery
People-watching: January 14th
National
The Local's guide to Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Politics
Paris attacks: Knock-on effects in Sweden and across Europe
National
Swedish Muslims react to new Charlie Hebdo magazine
National
The Local talks to Sweden's Home Affairs Minister about Paris attacks
Business & Money
Will Spotify launch on stock market after users rocket?
Accelerated
Texans and Swedes to play ice instruments
Gallery
Property of the week: An 18th century mansion in Stockholm
Business & Money
'Snowboarding drew me to work in chilly Sweden'
National
Are Sweden's royals moving to London?
Sponsored Article
Everything you need to know about moving to Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

1,008
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se
Counselling and Psychotherapy in English
Sometimes living in another culture can cause stress, confusion and feelings of sadness and loneliness. Talking to a professional psychotherapist/counsellor might help you. I am a UKCP Reg. psychotherapist. My practice is in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Contact me to discuss your options