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Could this be Sweden’s most vegan-friendly city?

Malmö may be famous for its falafel, but there’s more to its vegan offering than everyone’s favourite fried chickpea balls.

Could this be Sweden’s most vegan-friendly city?
Bageri Leve in Malmö serves up mouth-watering vegan fika. Photo: Bageri Leve

Meander around Malmö and you’ll notice the city has no shortage of places to eat.

In fact, Malmö is home to some of Sweden’s top restaurants, with everything from traditional Swedish köttbullar to authentic Syrian cuisine and, OK, more than a handful of falafel restaurants.

But there’s something unique about Malmö’s foodie scene, and it isn’t just the ubiquity of Middle Eastern restaurants.

“Malmö’s vegan food scene is really diverse,” says Björn Gadd, who runs an Instagram account dedicated to vegan grub in the city.

“There’s something for everyone here whether you want ethnic food, cheap eats, or fine dining.”

But has Malmö always been famous for its vegan-friendly fare?

The short answer is “no”, say Björn. It wasn’t that long ago that Malmö’s vegan scene was less of a scene and more a couple of coordinates on a map.

Start planning your vegan odyssey to Malmö

“When I moved here 12 years ago there were only two vegetarian restaurants in Malmö,” he recalls.

Fast forward 12 years and there are now no less than 169 restaurants listed as ‘vegetarian-friendly’ on travel and restaurant review website TripAdvisor. For such a compact city, that’s a lot to choose from!

From cool Kafé Agnez, a multiple award-winning organic and vegan cafe, to The Vegan Bar, a burger kitchen with an entirely meat-free menu, people come from far and wide for a bite of Malmö’s famed vegan fodder.

 

A post shared by The Vegan Bar (@theveganbar) on Nov 7, 2017 at 12:45am PST

But the transformation didn’t happen overnight.

“It was definitely gradual,” says Björn, talking about the city’s metamorphosis into a giant vegan smörgåsbord.

Word began to spread that Malmö’s chefs were pushing the boundaries of standard vegan cuisine, and soon anyone with a predilection for meat-free meals came flocking to the city.

“Now there’s a really big crowd of people here who want to eat vegan food,” says Björn.

But for him, the true mark of a vegan-friendly city isn’t the number of exclusively vegan restaurants, but the number of regular restaurants serving vegan dishes. And not just the same old vegetable ragu or mushroom burgers that have become standard ‘vegan alternatives’.

“I’d say in the last five years it’s become the norm that mainstream restaurants in Malmö serve great vegan options too,” says Björn.

For example, he recommends recently-opened Mutantur, the brainchild of Skåning chef Alexander Sjögren, once the Swedish competitor in the Bocuse d’Or, the world’s most prestigious gastronomic competition.

“Sjögren opened his new place just a few weeks before Christmas. There are about 25 a la carte dishes and a third are always vegan,” praises Björn.

It’s refreshing and rare, he says, for one of Sweden’s top chefs to put just as much thought into the meat-free options on a menu.

Another of Björn’s favourite lunch spots is Pink Head Noodle Bar in Malmö’s Saluhall which serves three options a day, with one or two always vegan (or with the option to be made vegan).

 

A post shared by Vegan Foodie (@veganfoodnerd) on Jun 20, 2017 at 9:36am PDT

“The noodles are handmade in front of you and the sauces are amazing. I definitely suggest trying it if you want to try something new and a bit different,” he says.

Of course, no visit to a Swedish city would be complete without trying out the local fika. And in Malmö, even the cake and pastries are vegan- friendly.

Plan your foodie trip to vegan-friendly Malmö

Bageri Leve has become really big on the vegan scene in just a few months,” says Björn, referring to the bakery which opened in February 2017.

“They have a really exciting menu which changes every week. I have a lot of friends that go every Thursday to try the new doughnut flavour, which is always really different, like lemon and thyme for example.”

Didrik Persson, one of the two co-founders of Bageri Leve, explains they saw a demand for vegan fika but wanted to move away from the current ‘raw food’ fad sweeping Scandinavia.

Vegan doughnuts at Bageri Leve. Photo: Bageri Leve

“We started making vegan fika because we saw lots of people wanted pastries and not raw food. To bake with plant-based ingredients is in line with our company’s environmental thinking, so it was a win-win!”

And it’s certainly paid off, says Didrik, explaining the response has been hugely positive.

“I think it’s because if you eat a vegan diet you miss a lot of the food like the pastries you could eat before. We’re baking traditional pastry but it’s vegan-friendly, so you can eat a semla or doughnut instead of trendy ‘raw food’”.

The bakery introduces a new plant-based doughnut every Friday, as well as serving different vegan breads, tartlets, and buns every day. It’s just one of many spots around Malmö where foodies can get their vegan fix in the city.

But don’t fear if you can’t get a reservation for a restaurant you’d hoped to visit while in Malmö. Björn reassures tourists that they’re never more than a few metres away from another vegan must-visit.

“Malmö is a small big town. You can walk everywhere, so if you don’t get a table at one restaurant just walk 100 metres and you’ll find another great vegan spot!”

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Malmö stad

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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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