Swedes show world how to eat fermented herring

Sophie Inge
Sophie Inge - [email protected]
Swedes show world how to eat fermented herring
Screengrab: Höga Kusten Destinationsutveckling AB/YouTube

A fermented herring expert has teamed up with a Swedish tourism company to show the world how surströmming is supposed to be eaten in response to a BuzzFeed video in which Americans turn their noses up at the Swedish delicacy.


Surströmming expert Ruben Madsen and the Swedish tourism company Höga Kusten Destinationsutveckling AB have produced a video showing Swedes tucking into fermented herring in a bid to educate foreigners about the traditional dish.

The clip comes two months after Madsen told The Local of his outrage after BuzzFeed published a video showing the American news site’s staff sampling the Swedish delicacy for the first time.

“Sewage”, “baby diaper”, “dead body” and “a national park bathroom that someone just dumped a bunch of dog food in” are just a few of the pungent comparisons used by the team in the video (below), which has now been viewed over 3 million times.

According to Madsen, who works for the Surströmming Academy on the island of Ulvön, where he promotes the dish, the fish in the video was not served correctly.

“Never, ever should surströmming be served like that,” he told The Local at the time.


“It must always be stored in a cool environment. If it is stored in a warm place, then the lactic acid destroys the proteins and there is no fish left inside the can. In the film, there's just a mess inside.”

Madsen said that the tourism company approached him about making the video after reading his interview on The Local.

“They called me and said that they had read the article and wanted to finance a response to the video,” Madsen said on Monday.

“We tried to make the film as much like the BuzzFeed film as possible.”

In Madsen’s video (see below), which was published last Thursday, Swedes are filmed eating the dish in the traditional way – with onion, sour cream, bread and potatoes and a glass of snaps.

In contrast to the BuzzFeed video, the responses are all positive with the participants gasping excitedly as the tin is opened and the smell released.

“It makes you happy,” comments one man, while another says his “mouth waters” when he smells the fish.


Using the hashtag #surstrommingchallenge2k15, Madsen is now encouraging diners to spread their love of surströmming by posting photos and videos of them enjoying the dish on Instagram and Twitter.

On October 31st Höga Kusten Destinationsutveckling will select a winner who will get a trip to the High Coast. 

“We’ve had a very positive response so far with people sharing images of the fish,” said Madsen.

Although Madsen admits that the dish is not for everyone.

“In Sweden of course there are people who don’t like surströmming. But if they don’t like the fish then they are not negative about the fish itself.”

That’s not to say that only Swedes like the dish.

“Even [British celebrity chef] Jamie Oliver tried it while he was over here. He found the smell very strong but said it tasted fantastic,” Madsen notes.


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