Surströmming: The Swedish Stinky Fish Delicacy
Surströmming is a traditional Swedish, stinky, fermented herring fish delicacy stored in a tin. People are most familiar with the its title of ‘the smelliest food in the world’ – although possibly Greenlandic Kiviak could give it a run for its money!
Knives, shampoo, lighter fluid, weapons, Surströmming. What do all these things have in common? Well all of them are banned from being taken on an airplane!
So what makes Swedish delicacy Surströmming as dangerous to passengers health as a knife wielding maniac?
That would be the pungent smell of, to quote those that have smelled it ‘hell on earth’. This is what you get when you ferment herring fish then put it in a pressurised tin.
The herring breaks down and releases all sorts of acids like propionic acid, butyric acid and acetic acid, giving it a sour taste. The big one is hydrogen sulfide which smells like gone off eggs.
The advice given is to open the tin outside, as the smell of the fermented herring can overwhelm you and liquid squirts everywhere from the container. Definitely not one for a quick office snack.
What does Surströmming taste like?
So you’ve donned your safety gear, said goodbye to your loved ones and opened the tin…what does it taste like?
Swedes usually eat Surströmming with thin flatbreads and oat breads. Surströmming reportedly has a very sour, sharp, peppery taste with a salty baseline of flavor.
Surprisingly many people say the taste isn’t actually that strong or notable once you get over the initial shock of the smell. Swedes sometimes pair it with milk but mainly beer is the best option, and let’s face it you’re going to need a drink after this.
Whilst the dish is mostly eaten in the North of Sweden, Swedes in general are also not too keen on the dish. There are some die-hards who love to continue the old traditions and some families who include it in a Smörgåsbord. But many people choose to completely avoid it anyway.
Either way, Surströmming is no doubt one of the weirdest foods eaten around the world that we have come across.
Apparently eating fermented foods can be good for you and encourages the friendly bacteria in the gut. Whether the other myriad health risks and the long term animosity of your neighbors is worth it I’ll leave up to you.
Watch: How To Eat Surströmming Video
The internet is awash with daredevils filming themselves trying Surströmming, but most of the time they are not eating it correctly and so would struggle to understand the reason why it is such a delicacy.
In this video you can find out the correct way to prepare and eat surströmming without throwing up immediately!
If you would like to try out some surströmming yourself then you will likely need to travel to the North of Sweden in order to find it. Either that or you can ruin your postman’s day by getting it delivered, your choice!