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SWEDEN AND INDIA

Eight things Indians wish they’d brought with them to Sweden

Moving to a new country means getting used to new climates, new cultures, new foods, new ways of living. The Local asked some Indians who have made the move to Sweden about the items that they wish they'd brought with them.

Eight things Indians wish they'd brought with them to Sweden
Indian vendor Amarjeet Kaur sells spices at a roadside stall in Amritsar. Photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP.

A pressure cooker

Neethu Santhos, who works in Sweden, said that one thing that she was told to bring with her before her family moved from India was a pressure cooker.

Lea Tilders, meanwhile, had to bring back a proper Indian pressure cooker from Singapore for her husband when she travelled east for a business trip. 

“He was very unhappy with cooking rice, dhal or biryani in an open pot. And I agree – the real thing is so much better!” she says. 

Unlike Indian cuisine which features many slow-cooked stews and curries, standard Swedish food like köttbullar med mos (meatballs with mashed potato), kyckling i curry (chicken with curry sauce) or spaghetti köttfärssås (spaghetti bolognese) more often consists of frying or roasting some sort of meat with a sauce, which is then served with a boiled carbohydrate, such as potatoes, rice or pasta.

A Swedish pressure cooker such as this, will not do the job. Photo: Joakim Ståhl/SvD/SCANPIX

Indian food on the other hand – like dahl, for example – also often contains pulses like dried lentils or beans which require a long cooking time. This is where a pressure cooker comes in handy, as it can slash the cooking time by as much as 50 percent.

“This is an integral part of our day-to-day cooking,” Santhos told The Local.

Although pressure cookers aren’t as widely-used in Sweden as they are in India, there are some alternatives to old school Indian-style pressure cookers available on the Swedish market, such as this one from IKEA.

Santhos is happy she brought her own pressure cooker with her when she moved, saying that she uses it “almost every day.”

Lay’s India’s Magic Masala crisps. Photo: Abigail Becker/Flickr.

Spicy crisps

Anisha Mazumder, who moved from India to study in Lund, says she misses Indian spicy crisps.

Popular crisps flavours in Sweden include sour cream and onion, cheese, and dill, which are pretty bland compared to the spicy crisp flavours available in India.

“I miss blue Lays,” Mazumder said. “The blue packet is the Indian Masala. They’re the spiciest, best chips ever.”

Whenever friends travel back to India, she asks them to bring packs – “big packets” of the blue Lays back for her, because although they are sometimes available here, the supply is not steady.

Auto-rickshaws in New Delhi. Photo: AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Auto rickshaws 

Mazumder also joked that she misses auto rickshaws, the small, brightly coloured vehicles found everywhere on Indian streets. “It’s so easy and so cheap to get to places,” she said. “You never have to take public transport ever.”

Rickshaws are uncommon in Sweden, with cycle rickshaws only occasionally seen in the larger cities offering rides to tourists. Most Swedes looking for a cheap way to get to their destination without using public transport would use their bike or rent an e-scooter, with a taxi ride the most expensive alternative.

A kitchenhand makes roti flatbreads on a hotplate in a sidestreet restaurant in Mumbai. Photo: Rob Elliott/AFP

A proper rolling pin 

Rolling pins and wooden boards for rolling dough out on ranked high on Amar Yechkal’s list of what he misses. In the few months since he moved to Sweden for work, he has not yet managed to find “a good rolling pin” in any Swedish stores. 

Indian rolling pins, known as belan or velan, can be either longer and thinner than the standard Swedish varieties, or shorter and stubbier, and are used for making breads such as chapati, roti and porotta or paratha.

They are used along with a wooden or marble board (also known as a patla), where the bread dough is placed directly on to the board and rolled out into a circle, rather than rolling it out on to a counter.

For Vighnesh Nadukkandy Pradeep, a student, it’s not just ingredients or utensils that he misses. He misses his favourite meal, of porotta, a flaky flatbread particularly popular in Kerala in the southern part of India, and beef. “That is a staple,” he said. “I miss that because I cannot get porotta. I know how to make it but I don’t have the things to make it.”

Some of the spices he needs are not available here, he said.

Indian textiles and houseware 

Scandinavian design may be famous for its stylish minimalism, but for Jaina Shah-Lindholm, from Mumbai, it’s a little monotonous. 

She wishes she’d brought more cotton clothes from India, which she says are “better priced and better quality”, and also have “more options of design patterns and colours to break the monotony of black, grey and brown hues.”

It’s a similar situation when it comes to interior decorations and dinnerware options. The goods supplied by a company like goodearth.in are she says, “very different and vibrant from what exists in the Swedish markets”.

“Practically all of us have the same stuff in our Swedish homes,” she claims. 

Cans of ghee in a supermarket. Photo: Nikki Price, Flickr.

Ghee 

Food was also high on Manoj Sai Manda’s list. For him though, ghee was the key ingredient that is hard to find in Sweden. “Butter will work, but usually, I bring ghee from home,” he said. “It enhances the taste of everything. You can use it in spicy dishes, you can use in in sweet dishes.”

Ghee is available in Sweden, sometimes under the name skirat smör or klarat smör. One popular brand in Sweden is Kung Markatta, which is available in some supermarkets and pharmacies.

You can also try making your own by melting 500g of unsalted butter or osaltat smör and simmering it over a low heat for about 40 minutes without burning. Skim off any white foam that appears during the cooking process and pass the melted butter through a coffee filter when you’re finished to remove any browned milk solids.

It should be kept at room temperature in a clean airtight glass jar.

Wholesale grain, pulses and spices sellers wait for customers at a market in New Delhi. Photo: AP Photo/Saurabh Das

Chilli powder worthy of the name

The chilli powder in Sweden is also no comparison to what Manda, who moved to Sweden for university and now works here, says he is used to back in India.

“The chilli powder here is not as spicy,” he said. Neethu Santhos also said that she missed the variety of masalas, or spices, available in Indian marketplaces.

Most Swedish supermarkets sell a small range of spices in glass jars or paper bags, with Santa Maria a common brand. Markets providing fresh spices available by weight are rare, with the best alternatives being online services such as Kryddhyllan or Kryddlandet, or Indian supermarkets which provide delivery such as Indopak in Malmö.

Fresh fruits and Indian vegetables
 
This is not perhaps something that you can bring with you to Sweden, but Shah-Lindholm wishes she could. 
 
“[I miss having] lots of fresh fruits and wider variety of vegetables. Just as an example: Fresh coconut water is available to us throughout the year in Mumbai. We drink it right out of the coconut shell.” 
 

By Shandana Mufti and Becky Waterton

Member comments

  1. Most of the stuff mentioned is available in sweden, seems that there is need to know where to get it and then you always have option to get it shipped from germany, you will have to stop converting the price into indian rupees

  2. Hi,

    I have been living in sweden since past 10 years(native north Indian) and I can 100% say the above list if not the must items which we should have bring. Most of the list can be found here easily and I have been managing since many years (alone). I would say there are few things which can be imported or slightly different quality, but everything is available here 🙂

    BR
    Ankit

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FOOD & DRINK

Where can you get authentic Indian food in Sweden’s big cities?

A lot of Indian food you find here has been ‘Swedified’ – code for minimising spice and flavour to appease the softer Swedish palate. We surveyed Indians in Sweden to find their favourite places to go out and eat.

Where can you get authentic Indian food in Sweden's big cities?

What are Indians in Sweden looking for? 

Many of those who responded to our request for recommendations on the Indians in Sweden Facebook page were adamant that only restaurants owned and operated by fellow expat Indians are truly authentic, complaining that too many places add the label ‘Indisk mat’ to their menus even when the food isn’t cooked by Indian hands.

Some complained of being sorely disappointed by some of their experiences eating supposedly Indian food in Swedish cities. 

“All the curries taste the same as those from all the restaurants,” complains Rejin Balachandran of some of the bland fare on offer. 

“Indian restaurants in Sweden are hyped and the flavors are modified and very mild,” agreed Koushika Prasanna. “The quantity is comparatively less and overly priced. I personally feel other Schengen countries offer better authentic Indian food at a better price compared to those in Sweden.”

Another respondent, Ashutosh Kumar, wrote: “One thing which is really annoying is that most of the places uses “ready made frozen naan” and then heat them and serve. This breaks me to pieces.”

The places mentioned below are some of those which surely strive to change this opinion of expatriate Indians living in Sweden, and consequently other people who want to experience truly authentic Indian food.

Stockholm and Solna

One of the most-loved places for Indian food in Stockholm is Indian Street Food & Co, with outlets and food trucks in Stockholm and Solna. Visitors can’t stop raving about their menu.

Founded by chef Dheeraj Singh and his friend and entrepreneur Johan Parmar, the trucks and restaurants offer a wide variety of popular North Indian foods like Kathi Rolls, Samosas, Seekh Kebabs, and Papdi Chat (a personal favourite!), striving to create tasty dishes with locally sourced materials.

“They have a variety of authentic Indian food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian”, says Stockholm resident Kamlesh Khullar, while Rajashekhar Somanchi also recommended it as “one of the best” places for authentic Indian food in the city.

When it comes to South Indian food, another resident, Santhosh Damodaran swears by Saravanaa Bhavan at Sankt Eriksgatan.

The chefs here not only offer an assortment of traditional South Indian dishes like dosas and uthappams with rasam (a spicy warming soup), sambhar, and delicious chutneys, but also have a broad menu serving other North Indian and South Indian delicacies.

Junie Skeppstedt recommends Shanti, a chain of Indian restaurants specialising in Bengali food. Junie echoes the sentiments of many others when backing her preference, saying, “some restaurants have fallen in standard I notice but I can still recommend this one.”

Shanti started out with the idea of providing Stockholmers with the experience of the real day-to-day food eaten by Indian people, but realised the naiveté of this shortly after opening Shanti Classic eleven years ago. Even though it took some time to win over Stockholmers, they now operate six different restaurants across the city, with people like Junie as regular patrons.

While Shanti Classic offers “normal, classic” Indian food like Palak Paneer, Malai Koftas and Chicken Do Pyaza, Gossip in Kungsholmen and Nytorget offer Bengali and Bangladeshi-style street food like Pakoras, Paratha Rolls, Bhelpuri and Kebabs.

Their other outlets, Touch of Bengal, Softcorner, and Ultimat have a similar menu, offering slightly different specialties depending on individual preferences. All in all, Shanti strives to provide a “non-Swedified” authentic experience of Bengali food for anyone who wants to try.

Gothenburg

“The owners are Indian and understand when we ask for more spicy or customised Masala”, says Vijnan Penmetsa of The Elephant, the run-away favourite among Indians in Gothenburg. 

The restaurant offers a selection of the finest Punjabi-style vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies, winning seemingly universal praise. 

“The paneer they make is amazing. While they have westernised the taste, ask the servers to make it “desi style”, and you will be reminded of the restaurants back home. They have a nice “chapati” as well”, agrees Rajeev Sanjay Patil.

Another resident Kimmi Singh Sandhu praises the restaurant for having “the best flavours”, and “a lot of items that you normally can’t find in many Indian restaurants”. She especially rates the “nice cocktails inspired from India and the appetisers.”

A definite must-visit, I think.

Patil gives an honourable mention to Himalaya on Olivedalsgatan. “While technically this is not Indian food, it is close enough,” he jokes. “The momos here remind me of ones we have back in India. The main course dishes are not too spicy and just the right taste. This is my go-to place.” 

For lovers of dosas and idlis, The South Indian and Kollywood Food Cart are the frontrunners.

“The South Indian has the best spice levels for a South Indian,” says Janani Mani about the chain, which also has outlets in Stockholm, Helsingborg and Malmö.

As for Kollywood Food Cart, both Patil, and fellow resident Rejin Balachandran say their food “is close to what we used to eat in India.”

Skåne

In Southern Sweden, there are several good Indian food joints. Starting with Art of Spices, an award winning Malmö restaurant, which is highly regarded by residents Parag Sathe, Krithika Venkatesh and Vishi Sharma Nagar.

Krithika considers it “the best authentic Indian Restaurant in Malmö,” thanks to their broad range of North Indian street food, including vada pav, papdi chat, and pani puri. 

Parag says he recommends these places because they are owned and operated by Indians, which adds to their authenticity.

Some other notable mentions in Malmö are Kontrast and its sister restaurant Ghee by the Sea, Urban Turban and Curry on Wheels.

Rohit Singh, an Indian in Malmö, said Kontrast was “a great idea to visit”, with it “mostly representing Punjabi food”. The local branch of the South Indian aside, Malmö seems to be lacking in South Indian or Bengali options. 

Helsingborg resident Rita Vithlani speaks highly of Mehak-e-India, owned and operated by Rajesh Malpani, who started this enterprise to fulfil the demands of rich and flavourful North Indian food in Helsingborg.

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