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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.

Malmö Lunch: exploring Sweden's international food capital
The Syrian restaurant Jasmin Alsham opened on Malmö's main pedestrian shopping street in 2016. Photo: Malin Palm
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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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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