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Will you ever be truly Swedish without trying these weird foods?

What Swedish food have you been brave enough to try? Saina Behnejad writes about her love-hate relationship with Swedish cuisine.

Will you ever be truly Swedish without trying these weird foods?
A Swedish breakfast staple. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Saina Behnejad was born in Sweden but moved to Britain with her Iranian parents when she was five. But with relatives still based in the Nordic country, there is certain Swedish food she just can't shake.

READ ALSO: 'I'm one of those who don't know where they belong'

1. Kebab pizza

The first and most essential weird Swedish food is the one and only kebab pizza. It has made headlines around the world, because frankly, who would have thought that doner kebab meat slices would go in anything else but pita bread? Incredibly, the kebab-pizza combo doesn't appear to be off-putting. In fact, kebab is one of, if not the most popular pizza topping in Sweden.

The kebab pizza is a creative, and in my opinion, delicious, Swedish invention that combines Italian and Turkish cuisines. I don't know what the Turks or Italians think about the now infamous kebab pizza, but I have a feeling they'd be perplexed by it.


Delicious. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

2. Bananas everywhere

Ever heard of the Flying Jacob? It's a Swedish casserole that consists of chicken, cream, chili sauce, roasted peanuts, bacon and bananas. Yes, you read that correctly. The dish was invented by Ove Jacobsson, who worked in the air freight industry in the 1970s, which explains the odd name. The bananas do throw some off when they first see it, but the mix of flavoUrs is usually received well.

If you're new here you may have noticed another surprising dish that involves that particular fruit: banana pizza.

Yes, once again, you read that correctly. Judging by the example of the kebab pizza listed above, it seems Swedes like to just throw everything they can get their hands on onto pizza dough. Ok, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration but given this pizza consists of bananas, curry powder and cheese it's not too far off. Some put ham or shrimp on there, and vegetables – usually green bell peppers. Yes, it's weird, but tasty.

As for the Flying Jacob, if you're interested in cooking one up here is a perfect video guide:

3. Oven pancakes

Pancakes are always good for breakfast, brunch and dessert, but how about as a main dish for lunch or dinner? Children everywhere rejoice: Sweden has it covered. Basically, it's pancake batter poured into a big pan and baked in the oven, then eaten with butter and jam.

Carbs, fat and sugar for dinner seems a little strange, but sometimes they throw in some bacon, so think of that as your protein. And the buttery, brown and thick pancake will probably sway you once you see it coming out of the oven. Who can turn down pancakes anyway?


Scrumptious. Photo: Richie Diesterheft/Flickr

4. Messmör ('Whey Butter')

Put that stuff away and don't ever bring it here again.

Messmör is a product made from whey, the part of the milk that's left over after you take all the good stuff out of it when making cheese. Sounds weird? Wait…

It's not very fatty, but it is quite sweet, and it contains a lot of milk sugars, calcium and iron. It's meant to be a healthy substitute for milk and if you grew up eating it as a child you probably love it. But I'd rather have the real thing, please.


Real cheese vs Messmör, what would you go for? Photo: JonasB/Wikimedia Commons

5. Fish roe spread

This stuff tastes beautiful. I'm not holding back here because even thinking of it makes me hungry. To someone who doesn't come to Sweden at all or hasn't grown up here it sounds understandably revolting. But bear with me.

The most Swedish brand you could ever think of is Kalles, which has been around since 1954. I grew up with them being in constant supply in my fridge. You can fully appreciate the creamy, smoky flavored spread once you get over the fact that you're squeezing caviar out of a tube, and it can be topped with a hard-boiled egg or cheese.


The most Swedish of Swedish brands is Kalles Hasse Holmberg/TT

6. Swedish sausages

The texture, the texture people. Your teeth just glide through it when you take a bite, although the taste itself isn't bad. I understand there are a variety of sausages in Sweden, and the dear Swedes love their sausages. No disrespect, but so far I haven't had one I can chew without grimacing a little.

I'm mostly talking about the standard sausage you find in the supermarket or at a hot dog stand (although Swedish mustard is amazing), so I can't write them all off. I'll continue my quest for the perfect Swedish sausage.


Swedish sausages need some work. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

Article written by The Local contributor Saina Behnejad in August 2016.

Member comments

  1. Swedish sausages are tragic and disappointing compared to the wondrous cured meats from Germany, Poland, Hungary, and the rest of Eastern Europe. It’s incredible how bland and tasteless they’re made here.

    Kebab pizza, on the other hand, is worthy.

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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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