Friday, October 28, 2011

Foods to try when traveling with kids to Sweden

My old home-country, Sweden, is on my mind quite a bit lately since my family is headed there for Christmas holidays this year. The kids are already excited about visiting the country and their grandparents, and so am I. One reason for my excitement is that I look forward to some good, Swedish food.

Here are my suggestions for foods to try if you're headed to Sweden and want to sample some local goodies:

My grandmother making palt.
Palt & kroppkaka
These are two kinds of what can best be described as giant-sized Swedish potato dumplings. "Palt" is made with raw, grated potatoes and "kroppkaka" is made with cooked, grated potatoes. Both palt and kroppkaka are usually filled with salted pork, and then boiled. You won't find these dishes at restaurants, but they can be found in "ready to heat" form in grocery stores.

The finished product!
They can either be cut up and fried in butter, or simply heated in boiling water. Serve with butter and lingonberry jam. My son, a pasta lover, loves palt. I think it's a very kid-friendly dish if they can get past the weird look!

There are many different kinds of crispbread in Sweden, dark rye crisp breads, lighter wheat versions of varying thickness. Have a look in a grocery store and try it out! Eat them with just butter on top, or with some cheese or ham. For kids and other Swedish food newbies, I'd recommend any form of dark, rye crispbread ("knäckebröd"), and also the lighter, wheat (or barley) crispbread ("ljusugnsbröd").

Moose meat & reindeer meat
Wild game is pretty common in Sweden, and quite a few restaurants serve various kinds of dishes made with moose- or reindeer meat. (I had a delicious moose burger at a restaurant last year for example.) Both moose and reindeer meat is also available in dried and smoked form, especially if you're traveling in northern Sweden.
They are tasty.
If you want to buy and cook it yourself, moose and reindeer meat is also commonly available in the freezer aisle of most grocery stores. Look for "älgskav" or "renskav", which is small, thin slices of moose or reindeer. This frozen meat can be used in stews or other dishes and is a great way to introduce kids and adults to this new flavour.

"Messmör" can be loosely translated as "soft whey butter". This spreadable, sticky and kind of tangy-sweet stuff is made from whey, essentially what is left over when you make cheese. It's commonly used on crisp bread in Sweden. Try it on some dark, rye crispbread! It's very popular with a lot of Swedish kids: I still love it, though I rarely get a chance to eat it. It's available in squeezable tubes and tubs.

Swedes love their cheese ("ost"). (My Canadian husband swears Swedes are obsessed with crisp bread and cheese, and he's not all wrong.) There are lots of great cheese varieities to try, for example Västerbottensost, herrgårdsost, kumminost (a mild cheese spiced with caraway), and more. Get a Swedish cheese slicer ("osthyvel") and enjoy!

Swedish hot dogs, aka varmkorv
If you want to try some Swedish fast food that isn't fancy, but tasty, quick, and might really appeal to your kids, try "varmkorv", the Swedish version of hot dogs. Swedish fast food outlets that serve hot dogs usually serve them a few different ways: on a bun ("med bröd"), on top of mashed potatoes ("med mos"), or grilled with french fries ("grillad med pommes frites").

 Pickled herring, aka inlagd sill
Pickled herring is a staple food in Sweden, and if you're visiting at Christmas time (or at Midsummer's Eve) you'll see versions of this Swedish dish everywhere. It is a must on the Swedish Christmas buffet table.

There are countless varieties flavored with, for example, mustard, garlic, sherry, tomato juice and much much more. Pickled herring might be a little adventurous for some kids to try, but you never know!

Swedish fika
"Fika" is a Swedish word (and tradition) that means something like a snack or coffee break. It's a snack-like meal, and can be enjoyed in coffee shops, or when you come over for a visit at somebody's house. It usually involves baked goods like cookies, pastries, cakes, muffins or the like, served with tea, coffee, or soft drinks or juice for kids. This is one Swedish tradition that is a big hit with my kids!

Swedish candy stores
Stores selling bulk candy that you can pick from, put in a bag yourself, and then pay for by weight is a big thing in Sweden. For kids (and adults) with a sweet-tooth, visiting one of these stores stuffed to the rafters with every kind of imaginable (and unimaginable) kind of candy, can be heavenly. For a Swedish treat, try "polkagrisar", or some salted licorice ("saltlakrits") which is really popular in Sweden)!

Swedish ice cream
As I've mentioned before on this blog, ice cream is a big deal in Sweden. Definitely a great thing to try with kids if you're visiting!

If you are feeling really, really daring and if you're visiting northern Sweden, you might want to try an old-school, local dish called "surströmming", fermented herring. Fair warning: it smells awful (as in horrible). It's usually served on white crispbread with boiled potatoes, and chopped onion. Not for the faint of heart, but you and your kids will definitely have some bragging rights if you try this!

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the pickled herring.

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