Swedish word of the day: raggmunk

Swedish word of the day: raggmunk
Image: nito103/Depositphotos
Today's Swedish word sounds odd but describes something rather delicious.

Raggmunk literally means 'hairy monk', but it's the name for a potato pancake, a traditional hearty Swedish winter dish.

Don't worry, we can explain. 

Ragg comes from the Old Norse word rögg, which referred to a tuft or a bit of wool and probably came from a centuries-old word ru meaning 'to rip' or 'to tear', because farmers used to tear wool from sheep rather than using tools for the job. Rögg became Swedish ragg, used to describe coarse fur, hair or wool, usually belonging to an animal. Swedish also has the adjective raggig, meaning bushy/shaggy/matted/crisp.

Ragg can also be used as a slang term to describe someone you're having a casual relationship with, in which case it's a noun: ett ragg (a hook-up). The verb ragga, and sometimes ragga upp/ragga på can mean 'to flirt with', for example: han raggar upp tjejer på krogen (he chats up girls at the pub). But that doesn't have anything to do with our potato pancakes.

A raggmunk served in the traditional way. Photo: Dan Hansson/SvD/SCANPIX

Like ragg, munk also has two meanings. It can refer to monks in the religious sense, and has its roots in the Latin term monachus (monk) which was borrowed into old Germanic languages. 

Munk can also mean doughnut, and this is the meaning we're interested in today. Ring doughnuts are also called flottyrring (literally 'dripping ring'), but a munk can be a ring doughnut or a round one with a liquid filling. Exactly which kinds of baked goods qualify as munkar depends a bit on the region too. To create Swedish doughnuts, you can get a munkpanna (doughnut pan) which has several dips in order to form the treats.

Munk's two different meanings are actually related, because ring doughnuts were thought to look a bit like the traditional haircut that monks had which involved shaving off most of their hair to leave a ring of hair around the head. 

Returning to Swedish raggmunkar, these are often cooked in a munkpanna, and should be raggig in the sense of 'crisp' when they're ready, hence the name.

The Swedish potato pancake was first created around the early 1900s, according to Sweden's Raggmunk Academy, and is still enjoyed today, often with pork and lingonberries. 

RECIPE: How to make Swedish 'raggmunk'


Raggmunk med fläsk är en traditionell svensk maträtt

Potato pancake with pork is a traditional Swedish meal

Jag väljer alltid raggmunk när den finns på menyn

I always choose potato pancake when it's on the menu

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