A Brit tries Swedish fermented fish for the first time. And it’s… fine? 

A Brit tries Swedish fermented fish for the first time. And it’s… fine? 
Gregg Harfleet drove eight hours north to try surströmming the traditional way. Photo: Gregg Harfleet
He didn’t cry, he didn’t scream, he didn’t even vomit. But in a nondescript hotel room somewhere on the Swedish High Coast, Gregg Harfleet ate two whole bits of surströmming. 

He says that it tastes a bit like camembert. 

“It wasn’t very fishy at all, which is quite surprising for the smelliest fish in the world,” he told The Local. 

Fermented herring is Sweden’s answer to a question no one asks: what’s the smelliest fish in the world? 

Everyone has heard a surströmming story; like the family who would put it in a field and shoot it in order to open it without having to endure the smell, or how it’s banned on several airlines because it could be a security risk.  

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See also on The Local:

Now, YouTube is filled with videos of people enduring the stinky foodstuff. 

Harfleet, however, goes the extra mile – or rather, the extra 650 kilometres – to a place called Sollefteå on Höga Kusten, the High Coast, near the birthplace of the infamous fermented fish. 

He said that he was trying to offer people a different take by eating it as locals do, rather than straight out of a can from his local supermarket. 

“I felt obliged to give the tradition its fair shot, rather than go the clickbait route,” he said.

Harfleet moved to Sweden as so many of us do, for love. Originally from Kent in the UK, he now lives in Linköping and works in business development. The YouTube videos are just a passion project for him, started during the pandemic, but he’s really proud of the supportive little network he’s built up of native Swedes and international people alike. 

“The reaction from Swedes has been really heartwarming to see,” he said. Some commenters have even invited him to join them for a real surströmming party when the (not so) fresh summer batches are opened next year in late August. 

In the video he takes a bite of a fancy tapas-sized morsel, one laced with pickled onion and another with a dollop of blackberry jam. Hotell Hallstaberget is one of the only hotels in the world where they serve surströmming á la carte. 

“It tasted really good!” he told The Local a day after the video was posted. “Maybe that’s not the reaction that some people would have expected.”

The video generated several thousand views overnight and nearly 200 comments from Swedes pleased with his efforts to do justice to the tradition of surströmming.

“Next time, maybe I’ll get a tin and cook it in my innergården [the courtyard of an apartment block],” he says. 

Perhaps a follow-up video is in order.


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