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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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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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