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FOOD & DRINK

Readers reveal: The top food mistakes foreigners make in Sweden

The Local's readers got in touch to share the Swedish food quirks that caught them out, after we published an article about Swedish food mistakes to avoid.

a cup of coffee on a newspaper
Sweden is the world's second-largest consumer of coffee per capita. But do you know your bryggkaffe from your cappuccino? Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

We’ve already covered accidentally putting fil in your coffee and the important distinction between finpizza and fulpizza, but it turns out our readers have made even more Swedish food mistakes in their time here.

Pancakes and pea soup

Yellow split-pea soup and pancakes is a traditional Swedish dish eaten on Thursdays, often seen on lunch menus.

Reader Kerstin Larson got in touch to tell us about a mistake she made one day at work when her office decided to treat their employees to this dish.

“After you picked up your food there was a cute condiments station with cream, lingonberries, and yellow stuff,” she said. “So I put all three on the pancakes.”

She soon discovered, thanks to her coworkers’ laughs, that the yellow stuff was mustard meant for the pea soup. “My coworkers basically all peed their pants laughing at me,” she continued. “Well now that makes sense… but well… I was new to the pea soup game.”

How did pancakes and mustard taste though? “Not too bad!” says Kerstin.

Yellow split-pea soup, traditionally served on Thursdays in Sweden. Photo: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

Sweden’s take on tacos

Tacos are, perhaps surprisingly, an integral part of Swedish cuisine, with some Swedes eating them as often as once a week. They are the epitome of fredagsmys or “Friday cosiness” – an easy, quick and tasty meal eaten together as a family, which doesn’t require any hard work on the part of parents at the end of a long work day.

Those expecting authentic Mexican-style tacos, however, may be disappointed when meeting Swedish tacos for the first time. Swedish tacos usually consist of minced meat fried with a packet of taco spice, served in soft tortillas or hard taco shells with tomato, sweetcorn and cucumber, topped with sour cream, salsa, guacamole and grated cheese.

Readers Johan and Renee Envall were disappointed by Swedish tacos. “Real tacos are made with pulled pork, brisket or grilled chicken and complimented with pico de gallo or a simple salad onion cilantro mix,” they said. Their message for popular Swedish Tex-Mex brands was as follows: “I hope they find a Latin culinary consultant to guide them to the light.”

Tacos in Sweden are definitely more Swex-Mex than Mexican. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB/TT

Swedish coffee culture

The Nordic countries love coffee. The world’s top four coffee consumers per capita are Finland (3.5 cups per person per day), Sweden (3.2), Norway and Denmark (tied at 3.1 each), according to the International Coffee Organization. But despite this love of coffee, it’s not always easy to know what to order as a foreigner.

Most Swedes drink bryggkaffe or filter coffee – strong, and preferably brewed in a Moccamaster. This is reflected in restaurants and coffee shops, where filter coffee is expected to include gratis påtår, free refills. Don’t even think of ordering decaf – you’re unlikely to find anywhere selling it and most Swedes will raise their eyebrows if you ask for it. What do you expect in a country where a strong cup of coffee is considered a perfect after-dinner drink with a piece of cake?

Reader Jeannette Longo told us about a mistake her sister made in a Swedish coffee shop, which may resonate with our American and Canadian readers.

“My sister asked for half and half in her coffee” she told us. Half-and-half, a dairy product made of half milk and half cream, commonly used in baking or added to coffee in North America, does not exist in Sweden.

Instead, the barista gave her half a cup of coffee and half a cup of milk.

No Swedish kitchen is complete without a Moccamaster. Photo: coffee-rank.com

Chinese apples

Reader Arshdeep Singh got caught out by this Swedish false friend – looking for apple juice in the supermarket, he ended up coming home with orange juice.

It’s an easy mistake to make – the Swedish word for orange – apelsin, looks a lot like the English word apple. What he should have been looking for was äpple or äppel juice.

But why does the Swedish word for orange look so much like apple?

Well, as the story goes, the Swedish word apelsin comes from middle age Dutch and German: appelsina/appelsine, which in turn means “apple from China”. Even more confusingly, a “Chinese apple” was originally an English term for a pomegranate.

Are you wondering how to find pomegranate juice? Look for granatäpple.

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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.

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