Sweden isn’t exactly known for its culinary accomplishments, and to be honest, I never really knew much about traditional Swedish gastronomy other than Swedish meatballs and lingonberry, even after several trips to the country. This time however, I have made it a point to try as many dishes as possible, and have even learned how to prepare many of them myself. Pork, fish, cereals, milk, potato, root vegetables, cabbage, onions, apples, and berries are main staples, and the hearty nature of most Swedish meals is typical of a country with long, cold winters. Some of it has been scary, and some of it just plain weird, but overall I am learning to love Swedish food and am definitely going to miss it once I am gone. Here are some highlights of the past month and a half.

 

Pytt i panna

Pytt i panna, which means “small pieces in a pan”, is a Swedish version of “hash” that consists of diced and pan-fried potatoes, onion, and meat (usually sausage) with pickled beets and a fried egg on top. In my opinion, it is the perfect “hangover meal” and would taste better the morning after a long night of drinking, but pytt i panna is typically found on dinner menus in Sweden.

Köttbullar

Köttbullar, or meatballs, is the consummate Swedish dish. Even if you know nothing about Swedish cuisine, odds are you have probably heard of “Swedish meatballs”. The ground beef meatballs are traditionally served with gravy, boiled potatoes, and lingonberry jam, a tart fruit mixture which tastes a lot like cranberry sauce.

Matjesill

Matjesill is like Swedish sushi. Translated as “soused herring”, the fish is pickled in brine and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano and pepper. Matjesill is a very popular summer dish and usually served with boiled potatoes, hard-boiled egg, sour cream and chives.

Ugnsbakad Falukorv med potatismos

Translated as oven-baked Falukorv with mashed potatoes, ugnsbakad Falukorv med potatismos is my favorite meal at the moment. Falukorv is a large, traditional Swedish sausage that tastes just like a hot dog. It can be cooked in many different ways but for this dish it is topped with chopped onion and apple, ketchup, mustard and shredded cheese, then baked in the oven. It is usually accompanied by mashed potatoes and a glass of milk.

Ärtor med flask

Ärtor med flask, or yellow pea soup with pork, is traditionally served for dinner on Thursdays, usually with a little bit of mustard and Swedish pancakes on the side. It is an old school custom, but one that many Swedes, especially those in the Swedish army, have stuck to for centuries.

Smörgåstårta

Smörgåstårtas, or sandwich cakes, are often served during birthday celebrations. Sliced just like a cake and served cold, smörgåstårtas consist of several layers of white bread with creamy fillings in between such as mayonnaise and crème fraiche. Toppings can include ham, smoked salmon, shrimp, caviar, cheese, fruits and vegetables.

Rökt renstek

Saving the best for last, may I present to you rökt renstek, or smoked reindeer. More common in the north, reindeer is a Swedish delicacy and usually served grilled and as a main course. I didn’t think I could stomach a full steak of it so I just ordered it as an appetizer. It came out smoked and on top of whipped cream and toast with fresh horseradish sprinkled on top.  Surprisingly, it was delicious, and I have craved it on several occasions since I first tried it. Unfortunately, reindeer is pretty pricey and therefore something I can only treat myself to once in a while.