Malmö Lunch: exploring Sweden's international food capital

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Malmö Lunch: exploring Sweden's international food capital

When refugees from the Lebanon war came to Malmö in the 1980s, they brought falafel, the city's now ubiquitous chickpea balls. Since then, every wave of immigrants have left their mark. Our new Malmö Lunch feature will salute the street cuisine which makes Sweden's third city a wonderland for curious foodies.


Within five minutes' walk from the city's Möllevången Square, you can feast on burek and cevapcici from the Balkans, fragrant khoresh, polow and kabab from Iran, and, from two years back, delicious yoghurt fatteh and spicy kibbeh from Syria. 
If you're willing to go a little further afield, you can mop up spicy Somali stew with juicy anjera pancakes and spaghetti, domodo peanut stew from Gambia, or fresh-tasting leek ashok dumplings from Afghanistan. 
And that's before you look at the restaurants opened by so-called love refugees drawn to the city by their Swedish partners, which include several Mexican taquerias, a very British fish and chip shop, and authentic Neapolitan sourdough pizza.  
It's almost too much to take in, which is why, rather than try to cover the city's extraordinary (and usually quite cheap) ethnic food in one article, we've decided to explore it in a series. 
We'll be eating somewhere different each week, and writing it up as part of a new Malmö Lunch feature, which we'll bring to an end once the options have been exhausted. 

Fruit and vegetables for sale at the Möllevången square. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Amnon Tsubarah, from Israel, is thought to have opened the first falafel restaurant in the city, Falafel Mästaren back in 1988, with Youssiff Iskandarani, a Lebanese entrepreneur, opening a rival, Falafel No1, in Rosengård shortly afterwards. 
At the time, the city was in the middle of its protracted economic crisis, which is part of the reason why the new food took off, argues Federico Moreno, the Malmö food writer who was the first to take falafel seriously. 
"It's was the perfect combination: first of all you have a lot of people coming from a part of the world that brings falafel to Malmö, and then you had a city where you have a lot of people who really didn't have a lot of money, from the Middle East and students, and eating falafel was really cheap." 
When Moreno started reviewing the city's falafel scene in the local Sydsvenskan newspaper, and then running a competition to find out which was the best, the interest was far bigger than either he or his editors had expected. 
"A lot of people didn't take falafel seriously, but I could see that when you started to talk about falafel, everybody had some opinion, so I decided to write about falafel in an extremely serious way, which also made it kind of funny," he remembers. "But we could also see that we had hit on something serious." 
No lesser figure than Malmö's mayor, Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, agreed to help judge the semi-final of the newspaper's falafel contest, demonstrating the political potency of the foodstuff that unites all Malmöites. 
And the city's love of falafel may have also made its citizens more open to other food from the Middle East and elsewhere. 
"There are a lot of places that at the beginning were just for one ethnic group, but now you see a mixed group of people from Malmö going to them, because people have found out that they are good, good restaurants," Moreno says. 
Malmö is now no longer in the economic doldrums, and over the last few years, southern Sweden has emerged as a gourmet food region to be reckoned with. Daniel Berlin in the village of Skåne-Tranås won two Michelin stars in February, joining Malmö's Vollmers. Sav in Tygelsjö, a village outside the city, won its first star, joining Bloom in the Park in the city centre. 
But the city's most interesting taste experiences are arguably still to be found in establishments where you can eat your fill for less than a quarter of the price. 
Where in Malmö should The Local's Richard Orange have lunch next? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!


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