SHARE
COPY LINK

SURSTRÖMMING

WATCH: Spaniards try Swedish fermented herring, with hilarious results

If there is one thing that never gets old it's watching foreigners tackle Sweden's fermented herring delicacy surströmming. Now it's Spain's turn, after one of the country's most popular TV programmes asked a few locals to test the smelly fish for the first time.

WATCH: Spaniards try Swedish fermented herring, with hilarious results
Surströmming served the traditional way. Photo: Susanne Lindholm/TT

“El Hormiguero” (The Anthill) has been a stalwart of Spanish screens since 2006, forging a reputation for its experimental and scientific segments. This week, things took a Scandinavian twist as a group of lucky contestants were given the chance to taste surströmming: herring plucked out of the Baltic Sea then subjected to an ancient preservation method where it's stored for months to stew in its own bacteria.

“To carry out the filming, the production staff wore masks to eliminate the smell,” the narrator advises rather dramatically at the start of the video, setting the tone.

“Do you like fish?” he asks. “Yes, yes! Always, more than meat,” a participant replies enthusiastically.

His enthusiasm soon wanes however: as the cans are opened and the liquid inside sprays out it is met with cries of “It smells so bad!”, “Uff… what is this?!” and “Awful. You're sure this isn't out of date? Absolutely certain?”

And when the juices spray the face of the woman sitting next to him, another participant says something we absolutely can't translate into English (in Spain they're a bit more liberal when it comes to swearing). Keep in mind the Spaniards haven't even tasted the stuff yet.

READ MORE: Ten delicious Spanish delicacies to try before you die

One contestant, Diego, puts a brave face on it, taking a bite as a woman watches on in horror then deliberates for several minutes over whether she will do the same.

“I can't, I'm really sorry…”

“Yes I can.”

“I can't get close to it, I'm sorry.”

“A tiny bit, I'm going to try… Come on then! Give it some balls!”

After waving the fish back and forth in front of her mouth pitifully, the woman then finally takes a bite, only for her body to reject it, to say the least. Cue montage.

“Of the eight contestants, six were sick,” a caption card explains. “Along with part of the production team,” it adds, noting that even the office dog turned the fish down.

READ ALSO: What you need to know before trying Swedish fermented herring

When El Hormiguero asked a Swede to do it, his reaction was quite different.

“Lucky! There's caviar in here!” the Swede beams in delight while putting the smelly fish in his mouth before chewing it and adding “brilliant”.

Ruben Madsen, the foremost expert on the food and self-proclaimed 'Surströmming king' was not impressed with Spanish TV's take on the local treasure.

“I watched the video and they're doing everything wrong: the cultural illiteracy is evident! Unfortunately,” Madsen told The Local.

“Surströmming should be served like the delicacy it is. The can should be cold and not stored in the heat, it should be opened correctly and with the right tools. It shouldn't be eaten whole, but filleted. It should be eaten with various accompaniments like potato, onion, crème fraîche, tomato, and also bread, cheese and dill,” he explained.

“I've served surströmming thousands of times in Sweden, Finland, Norway, England, Denmark, Japan, Russia, Greenland and Iceland, and it has always been praised or received positively,” Madsen concluded.

The surströmming proponent would likely be just as unimpressed with The Local Sweden team, who ate the fish straight from the can last summer, filming the experience for posterity.

READ ALSO: Swedish agencies hit with stinky fermented herring attack

For members

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.

SHOW COMMENTS