Sweden – Stockholm and Göteborg, the markets and what foods to try
Sweden is special. Wide open, elegant, beautiful and stylish, everything I encountered there suited me perfectly well: the food, the beautiful people, clothes, home decor, architecture, canals and surrounding sea and archipelago, it was just my scene.
By the time we got to Sweden I was well versed in how to make the most out of shore days on a cruise and was off the boat first thing in the morning to explore. The city took me by surprise. I didn’t expect what I saw and spent a good part of the day exploring on foot the historical highlight of the city and wandering along the streets, marina and canals.
Of course the market was on the agenda and soon my sister-in-law (for a non-foodie she joined my food “excursions” without complaining) and I left the guys to do their thing and headed to Ostermalm Saluhall, an “institutional” food market located in Ostermalmstrog, a pleasant 10 minute walk from the center of Stockholm. The food hall was elected by Bon Appetite magazine #7 on their list of best food halls in the world. I should have been invited to that assignment, considering my love of food halls and markets.The original historical market building is undergoing renovations and will reopen in 2018. The old market is situated in a beautiful brick building constructed in late 1800 in the style of other European markets studied by the architects. In the meantime they have set a temporary market, the one we visited.
As in all Scandinavian markets, seafood rules and there were many vendors selling all kinds of fish, especially gravlax and smoked fish in addition to cheeses, breads, produce and many coffee and lunch places. You may already know but I thought I’d mention that gravlax is not smoked salmon. Gravlax is similar to what we know as lox and is the Nordic cuisine way of curing salmon with salt, sugar, lemon, dill and juniper berries as well as other ingredients such a aquavit (liquor).The result is silky and completely delicious cured salmon.
Looking at what people were eating, one of the popular lunches was salmon (gravlax) with boiled potatoes, cucumber salad and a couple of spreads on the side, served in beautiful large white ceramic plates, just like at home. Of course we followed suit, placed our order, paid, grabbed some bread and then took our plates to one of the several tables along the side to settle for lunch. The buttery boiled new potatoes, silky salmon and tangy cucumber salad made a memorable lunch. For dessert I bought irresistible local berries from a vendor just outside the market.
If you want to try the Swedish take on smörrebröd (Nordic open faced sandwiches) stop by Nybroe Smörresbröd, I didn’t eat there but the open faced gourmet offering looked attractive and very enticing. Another local institution is Vete-Katten, a well love by locals bakery offering traditional breads and pastries. They also serve coffee that you can take with your pastry to the general sitting area in this temporary market. For coffee you may want to try Robert’s Coffee, know for their specialty variety of more than 30 types of coffees and many more teas. I didn’t have a chance to survey and sample every stall but believe me, I will next time.
Another market to explore is the Hötorgshallen Food Hall with several lunch options and of course, buy foods to take home. This market is known for its international feel where cultures come together through food. During Stockholm food week In October (26-29) at Hotorgshallen you can taste your way through variety of cuisines and meet local food celebrities.
If you are not into buying and just want to eat fast, there is the K25 food court in the city center, open all day from breakfast, dinner and takeaway of local and mostly international cuisines.
Of course if you have time there are many beautiful restaurants to please any palate, especially in the old town, but expect to pay. Dining out is rather expensive in Stockholm. For a taste of authentic yet modern version of the famous Swedish meatballs try Meatballs for the People, a restaurant that was opened after the chef’s trip to Italy when he returned with meatball making machine and begun experimenting. Almost every item on the menu contains or revolves around meatballs.
Göteborg was our second stop in Sweden and it’s a city full of charm. Food culture is alive with wonderful cafes and restaurants and a lot of shops (I did some damage but had fun), it is a compact, accessible and cosmopolitan city that is building its profile as a culinary destination in Sweden and with good reason. I stopped at the Saluhallen market hall , a glass and iron structure in the center of town built in 1887 and expanded and renovated a few times since. It offers top quality foodstuff both local and from around the world and local fruits and vegetables stands outside. I also stopped at famous local bakery Cum Pane to taste their famous breads made with organic flour. Such good bread, I wish I could have brought home some.
Göteborg has a famous fish market, the Feskekora, situated in a 1874 building resembling a church and therefor called the Fish Church. Designed without partition walls or support pillars, this was a futuristic architectural design by Swedish city architect. It is located by the water not far from city center and is known for a wide selection of fresh seafood and a couple of seafood restaurants.
Swedish foods to try
The food in the Scandinavian countries has several common elements, which makes sense as they are in the same geographical zone but still, each has some unique food items and approach to the food. It is Copenhagen who got the most attention as the food lovers capital of Nordic cuisine, especially with Noma that placed the city on the international culinary map, but I found that both Helsinki and Stockholm also offer wonderful culinary experience and my head was spinning with all the culinary options.
Sweden is famous for its Swedish meatballs, potato pancakes with lingonberries, smoked fish, saffron pastries and more. Here is a quick view of some typical Swedish dishes from my travel and research.
Swedish waffles for breakfast and snacks
The Swedes love their waffles, soft on the inside, crispy outside. I have seen them sold freshly made with just a dusting of powdered sugar. Top them with fresh berries, whipped cream, marmalade or creme fraiche.
Swedish gravlax – cured salmon on rye crackers
A classic Nordic dish found everywhere topped with pickled red onion, dill and fish roe. The gravlax is cured with salt, sugar, lemon and dill (see note above).
Kannelibulla (Cinnamon buns)
These are popular in Nordic cuisine and made with slight variations of the dough. Apparently Swedes eat over 300 of them a year, per person. That’s probably one per cup of coffee.
Swedish blueberry “pie” or crumble
Very common as a dessert in berry season these pies look more like a crumble with a base pastry. I’ll have to do a little more investigation to figure out a recipe.
Probably one of the quintessential Swedish dishes.
All kinds of smoked fish are available at the markets and they play prominent role in local cuisine. It’s not just gravlax in Sweden.
Fried herring with mashed potatoes
Quintessential Swedish dish in season. And, lingonberries go with everything.
Saffransbullar – Swedish saffron rolls
More prominent around Christmas these buns are made with milk, saffron and raisins.
Pickled herring – a smorgasbord is not complete without them
North and Baltic sea herrings are pickled in various brines based on mustard, onion, garlic and dill. It is served mixed with boiled potatoes, sour cream and chives or dill together with crisp bread.
Open faced sandwiches are a classic of Nordic cuisine. They originate several centuries ago when the bread slice served as a plate and dinner was piled on top. Today these are gorgeous, artistic creations of bread slice piled artistically with salads, eggs, seafood, meat, cheese, berries and more.
Feature image by Jakob Fridholm/imagebank.sweden.se