Swedish Surströmming – Here is Why Swedes Won’t Eat It Indoors

Try Swedish Surstromming fermented herring - How to be Swedish

Don’t read this while eating!

What is the worst thing you have ever smelled in your life? Think about? Now, with that in mind, could you imagine eating the worst smelling thing ever?
Of course you wouldn’t. But many Swedes actually do. They have a thing called Surströmming.

Surströmming, Swedish delicacy

In some some countries horses are considered a delicacy, in other regions of the world people like to prepare a good salad refined with insects. In Sweden you might get served, not only moose meat, but also a fermented herring, Surströmming.

Surströmming stinks a lot. Some say, it actually tastes ok, but you shouldn’t inhale while taking it into your mouth. If you don’t like it, just have a snaps right after.

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How Surströmming smells

This is roughly how Surströmming smells, in case you don’t have it at home but want to experience something similar. Take an old pair of running shoes, fill them with onions, dog poo, garlic, asparagus, raw meat and a slice of cheese. Then put it into a black plastic bag and seal it. Store it in direct sunlight so the bag can heat up to about 100°C/212°F. Open the plastic bag after one week and enjoy!

Advice for dog owners

There are plenty of videos on YouTube, where people challenge themselves smelling and eating pieces of that fish. Despite my own expectations, dogs with their hyper-sensitive noses, surprisingly, seemed to like the smell of Surströmming, a lot. I uploaded a clip to YouTube: “Dogs try Surströmming” proving it (just search for that title, or watch here). One dog fell from the table out of excitement.

If you have a dog that tends to be lazy and boring – open a can of rotten Swedish fish – and see what happens.

Swedish friends

Immediately brake up any friendship with a person who tells you, it’s ok to open a an of Surströmming indoors. Once you’ve opened a can of this rotten fish, you’ll understand why. Usually nice people tell you to eat it outside only. It’s even forbidden by some airlines to carry it with you on a plane. In case a can explodes the juice of this stinky fish spreads all over the luggage, or,even worse, imagine if this happens in the passengers’ area.

So, dear new-Swede, try Surströmming at least once, and then tell all newly arriving Sweden tourists that they have to try it as well some time. Indoors.

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2 thoughts on “Swedish Surströmming – Here is Why Swedes Won’t Eat It Indoors”

  1. You should not open the can directly, open it in a pot of water.
    Take out the Surströming form the can, when it still is under water.
    Then let it sit there for a few hours. Then you can eat it.
    I have done this infors multiple times. Even at a large Hotel that i worked at.

    Water is excellent at retaining smells like that. Yes it will still smell, no way near as bad.

    • That‘s very good advice! Thanks! I would like to add wearing rubber gloves can be a good idea, or otherwise your hands might catch some unpleasant persistent smell ;)


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