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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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FOOD & DRINK

Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden

Do you know your biskvi from your bakelse? Your chokladboll from your kanelbulle? Here's a guide guaranteed to get your mouth watering.

Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden

Kanelbulle

The most famous of all Swedish cakes outside Sweden, the classic kanelbulle (cinnamon bun) is the symbol of Sweden abroad, no doubt helped by the fact that Swedish furniture giants IKEA stock frozen buns in their food stores for customers to bake off at home.

Forget American tear-apart cinnamon rolls baked in a pan and slathered with cream cheese frosting: a classic Swedish cinnamon bun is baked individually using a yeasted dough spread with cinnamon sugar and butter. The dough is then rolled up, sliced into strips which are then stretched out and knotted into buns, baked, glazed with sugar syrup and sprinkled with pearl sugar.

Home-made varieties skip the stretching and knotting step, rolling the cinnamon-sprinkled dough into a spiral instead which, although less traditional, tastes just as good.

Kanelbullar in Sweden often include a small amount of Sweden’s favourite spice: cardamom. If you’re a fan of cardamom, try ordering the kanelbulle‘s even more Swedish cousin, the kardemummabulle or cardamom bun, which skips the cinnamon entirely and goes all-out on cardamom instead.

Sweden celebrates cinnamon bun day (kanelbullens dag) on October 4th.

Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/imagebank.sweden.se

Chokladboll

A great option if you want a smaller cake for your fika, the chokladboll or ‘chocolate ball’ is a perfect accompaniment to coffee – some recipes even call for mixing cold coffee into the batter.

They aren’t baked and are relatively easy to make, meaning they are a popular choice for parents (or grandparents) wanting to involve children in the cake-making process.

Chokladbollar are a simple mix of sugar, oats, melted butter and cocoa powder, with the optional addition of vanilla or coffee, or occasionally rum extract. They are rolled into balls which are then rolled in desiccated coconut (or occasionally pearl sugar), and placed in the fridge to become more solid.

Some bakeries or cafés also offer dadelbollar or rawbollar/råbollar (date or raw balls), a vegan alternative made from dried dates and nuts blended together with cocoa powder.

Chocolate ball day (chokladbollens dag) falls on May 11th.

Photo: Magnus Carlsson/imagebank.sweden.se

Prinsesstårta

The lime-green prinsesstårta or ‘princess cake’ may look like a modern invention with it’s brightly-coloured marzipan covering, but it has been around since the beginning of the 1900s, and is named after three Swedish princesses, Margareta, Märta and Astrid, who were supposedly especially fond of the cake.

The cake consists of a sponge bottom spread with jam, crème pâtissière and a dome of whipped cream, covered in green marzipan and some sort of decoration, often a marzipan rose.

Prinsesstårtor can also be served in individual portions, small slices of a log which are then referred to as a prinsessbakelse.

Although the cakes are popular all year round, in the Swedish region of Småland, prinsesstårta is eaten on the first Thursday in March, due to this being the unofficial national day of the Småland region (as the phrase första torsdagen i mars is pronounced fössta tossdan i mass in the Småland dialect).

Since 2004, the Association of Swedish Bakers and Confectioners has designated the last week of September as prinsesstårtans vecka (Princess cake day).

Photo: Sinikka Halme, Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.

Budapestbakelse

Belonging to the more traditional cakes, a Budapestbakelse or “Budapest slice” is a type of rulltårta or “roll cake” similar to a Swiss roll, consisting of a light and crispy cake made from whipped egg whites, sugar and hazelnut, filled with whipped cream and fruit, often chopped conserved peaches, nectarines or mandarines, and rolled into a log.

The log is then sliced into individual portions and drizzled with chocolate, then often topped with whipped cream and a slice of fruit. 

Despite its name, the Budapest slice has nothing to do with the city of Budapest – it was supposedly invented by baker Ingvar Strid in 1926 and received the name due to Strid’s love for the Hungarian capital.

Of course, the Budapestbakelse also has its own day – May 1st.

Kanelbullar (left), chokladbollar (centre) and biskvier (right). Photo: Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se

Biskvi

Another smaller cake, a biskvi (pronounced like the French biscuit), consists of an almond biscuit base, covered in buttercream (usually chocolate flavoured), and dark chocolate.

Different variants of biskvier exist, such as a Sarah Bernhardt, named after the French actress of the same name, which has chocolate truffle instead of buttercream.

You might also spot biskvier with white chocolate, often with a hallon (raspberry) or citron (lemon) filling, or even saffransbiskvier around Christmastime.

Chokladbiskviens dag is celebrated on November 11th.

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