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Malmö: Home to the best food in Sweden?

When you think Malmö, perhaps the Turning Torso or Oresund Bridge comes to mind. Maybe you think of thick, country accents. Maybe you think of immigration - and cheap falafel.

Malmö: Home to the best food in Sweden?
A dish at restaurant Namu.

But did you know that last year the New York Times highlighted the city of its outstanding culinary prowess, and this year a whole host of restaurants received one – or even two – Michelin stars?

“Some of the Nordic region’s most interesting food is being cooked not in Copenhagen but across the Oresund Bridge, in the Swedish region of Skåne,” the article stated, referring to the southernmost province of Sweden where Malmö is located.

So what exactly is going down, down in the south of Sweden? Why are foodies going mad for a mouthful of Malmö?

The Local headed south and to visit some of the city’s top chefs to learn more about Malmö’s secret formula for world-class food.


Photo: : Justin Brown/imagebank.sweden.se

Seasons

It’s a sunny day in Malmö, 26C degrees in May, and everyone is talking about… asparagus.

“We have all this great asparagus from Lund! We have to work with it.”

“I read that the asparagus is early this year. Time to experiment!”

“The asparagus is in season right now, but it will only stay for about a month. That makes it harder to master.”

It’s not an Asparagus-Addicts Anonymous meeting. It’s just Malmö master chefs doing what they do best – following the seasons.

“We always try to capture the seasons. I like to call it instinct cooking,” says Jörgen Loyd, owner of restaurant Lyran. “That means each day I’m inspired by the weather and everything that is in season right now.”

Time for a trip to Malmö? Check out train tickets

And it’s not just the four seasons you may be familiar with. In Malmö, “seasonal” cooking goes much further.

“Within every season there are micro seasons – three parts of spring; three parts of summer; three or four parts of autumn,” Loyd adds. “It’s all a dynamic dance.”

That very dance – or lack thereof – is what made Robert Jacobsson pack his bags more than a decade ago and leave Stockholm.

“In the Stockholm food scene, there was nothing that was seasonal. It’s part of what made me leave,” Jacobsson tells The Local, sipping strong black coffee at his newest endeavour in central Malmö, Bord13 which he says is “all about seasons”.

“You’re not a real chef if you don’t follow seasons – then you’re not creating anything.”


Robert Jacobsson at Bord13. Photo: Gustav Arnetz

That means being creative with whatever you can get your hands on in a given season – which can be rather limited in the winter.

“We’ve become experts at root vegetables,” Jacobsson grins.

Find out more about Bord13

But it’s not just about creativity – it’s also sustainability.

“Following the seasons and using what’s available creates the least impact on the environment,” Jacobsson says. “And we want to be as environmentally friendly as possible while serving really good food.”

Skåne: Sweden’s pantry

But luckily in Malmö, using what you can get doesn’t limit you much.

“When I grew up we learned in school that Skåne is the pantry of Sweden,” chef Jennie Walldén says with a laugh. “And it’s true. Everything grows here, so we can take advantage of that.”


Photo: Namu. See more delicious food from Namu here.

Walldén was the winner of Sweden’s MasterChef (Mästerkock) 2013, and opened her first restaurant, Korean-inspired Namu, last year.

“We use local produce and my food is always based on local ingredients, and then adding Korean flavours to that,” she explains.

Some dishes are Korean with a Swedish twist and some are Swedish with a Korean twist – but either way, she relies on local farmers as much as possible.

Find out more about Namu

“It connects us to the community, but it also means the food is much fresher since it hasn’t travelled so far,” she adds. 

Lloyd agrees.

“At Lyran we have created a fantastic network of producers,” he says. “We have developed a sort of friendship and understanding for each other’s craft, and it brings a lot of quality to the produce.”


Photo: Lyran

But Skåne’s reputation as Sweden’s pantry isn’t just thanks to its warmer climate and excellent earth. The region has had plenty of migration – which restaurant owners agree has been hugely beneficial for the food scene.

 “There are great spices at Möllevångstorget, the central market, in Möllan that I didn’t even know existed a month ago,” he remarks.

“And my neighbour from Palestine has these great olives his family sends, and the same passion for food that I do. It’s wonderful to borrow from each other.”

Connecting with people

And then there’s that other thing that affects food experiences: service.

In bigger cities like Stockholm and Copenhagen, Jacobsson explains, many restaurants are fully booked seven days a week, and in that sense can “relax” when it comes to putting service first.


The kitchen at Bord13 is intimate – guests can see exactly what's happening. Photo: Gustav Arnetz

But when you walk into a restaurant in Malmö, you’re sure to get a warm welcome – whether it’s a steakhouse or a café.

“For us it’s a big deal,” he says. “We’re better at service, how we approach and connect with people on a personal level, in Malmö.”

And the connection goes beyond first impressions. Lloyd says he and his family actively engage with guests throughout their dining experience at Lyran to learn and figure out what to do next.

Find out more about Lyran

“We change the menu every day, and if we’re not happy with it, we’ll change it again,” he says.

Jörgen greeting guests at Lyran
Jörgen Lloyd greeting guests at his restaurant Lyran in Malmö. Photo: Lyran

We are critical of ourselves and we want customers to be critical of us, too, in a good way. It’s research and it’s very nerdy. That’s how we move forward.”

Freedom and “fun-dining”

That’s part of Lyran’s concept that Lloyd loves the most: not being restricted by a set menu.

“Each morning we get the produce delivery, and then instinct kicks in. We ask ourselves, what do we want to eat today? What is the feeling and impression of the food? One day it might be Asian, then Nordic the next day, and then Mediterranean.”

Lloyd, who has worked as a chef for some 20 years, says he was tired of following “trends” in cooking and doing what everyone else was doing.

“I wanted this kind of freedom,” he explains. “I don’t want to call my food unique in any way – that’s up to the customers to decide. But I have created a platform where I can be creative and really am happy to work each day.”

That kind of fun attitude isn’t a side effect of the food scene’s development in Malmö – it’s a key ingredient.

“I think what we are seeing in Malmö right now is fantastic,” Lloyd remarks.

“Great chefs are starting their own small restaurants, with their own money – not influenced by financiers with millions. They’re working for themselves, and that brings quality.”

Malmö has fewer fancy fine-dining restaurants than bigger cities like Stockholm and Copenhagen, he says – but it’s still great quality food.

“It’s this middle section that has really developed in Malmö,” Namu’s Walldén says. “Good food for good value. You pay way more for food and drink in other cities. You’ll get much more for your money in Malmö.”

Jennie at Namu
Jennie Walldén at her restaurant Namu in Malmö. Photo: The Local

And as Lloyd sees it, value and quality have sort of become the hallmark of Malmö’s food scene.

“Malmö is absolutely one of the top places in the world right now for this middle-class restaurant scene. It’s between fine-dining and bistro – it’s like fun dining,” Lloyd grins. “It’s very personal. The chefs have this freedom to do what they want without the filter from some big owner.”

That’s exactly what Jacobsson did, leaving Copenhagen’s famous Noma to open his own restaurant in Malmö.

“I still have to do the job and go to work every day – but starting your own place, you have a greater feeling because you’re doing it for yourself,” he says. “You can do things that are important to you and there’s a much better energy.”

Or, as Walldén so succinctly summarizes it:

“If you like to eat, come to Malmö!”

Read more about food in Malmö

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Malmö Tourism

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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