As kids we never really had an opportunity to experience foreign food, especially food that originates from Europe. I still remember the time when going to Pizza Hut was somewhat of a luxury reserved for special occasions like my parent’s wedding anniversary and the ONE time I won a prize at the school prize giving. Nowadays, we have many foreign franchises established in Sri Lanka; home cooks have easy access to a variety of scrumptious recipes from across the world. But, in my experience, to experience the real authenticity of food you must have the ingredients and spices from where the recipe originates.
Before we start, I must take a moment to appreciate Airline food! My first experience with Airline food was in 2014 on a flight to Stockholm via Doha. If you fly with one of the top ranked Airlines you are most definitely going to be served a 5 star meal! I don’t have a frame of reference as to how it used to be, but, I’m pretty impressed at the variety of meal options available to the modern traveler!
Anyone who knows me knows that I have a certain fondness towards Sweden! I’m quite sure it’s because Sweden was the first country that I travelled to and the fact that I was on full blown tourist mode when I was there! Or maybe it’s those beautiful blue eyed brunettes…anyway; today I’ll share with you my experience with Swedish food!
In Swedish, the word “Fika” means “to have coffee”. While Coffee is the most popular beverage consumed during Fika, some Swedes have Tea or Juice. Though the beverage may vary, it is always accompanied by authentic pastries, sweets or pies! Traditional Fika is Coffee with Cinnamon Rolls. On a gloomy Sunday morning, towards the end of autumn I found myself in Café Gildas Rum, a cozy little bakery in Stockholm that had a lovely old age ambiance, enjoying a Cinnamon Bun fresh out of the oven and a mug of strong coffee sweetened with honey. The buns have a lovely glazed crust and a soft inside. Swedish Bakers are quite liberal with their use of Cinnamon, so much so, that one can follow the aroma of Cinnamon if you can’t find your way to the bakery! The Almond buns and Croissant are also worth trying!
However, there was one classic pastry that I was itching to taste – the Mazarin, an oval shaped tartlet that has a moist buttery cake-like almond filling enveloped by a tender buttery crust and topped with a sweet icing-sugar glaze! Yum!!
Prinsen is a high-end restaurant in the heart of Stockholm. Guests are met by Prinsen’s very own coat check staff, part of their distinguished professional and personal service. The walls of this pleasant and cozy establishment are decorated with portraits of their famous habitués; many of whom are part of Stockholm’s cultural elite. Prinsen is a superb place to indulge in mouthwatering classic Swedish dishes prepared to perfection. We started off with some Toast Skagen, a combination of prawns and other ingredients on a small piece of sautéed bread and a platter of pickled Herring with Vasterbotten Cheese and condiments. Our main course was made up of traditional Swedish meatballs accompanied by Lingonerries and mashed Potato puree.
During my stint in Gothenburg, the Swedish work mates suggested that I try Crayfish. Luckily the local fishmonger was located across the road from our office, right next to the Supermarket. One day after shopping for groceries I stepped into “Fisk O Skaldjur” where I purchased 100 grams of fresh Shrimp and two Crayfish. These Ocean Crayfish have a pale pink shell compared to the red freshwater Crayfish. Apparently, the fishermen boil the Crayfish on the boat itself after they are caught. Thus, I was told that I don’t need to cook them again! So there I was, sitting at home, a plate of fresh Shrimp and Crayfish in front of me as the smell of salty raw fish filled my nostrils. I went for the Shrimp first, broke off its head and popped it into my mouth. The shell was very soft and I didn’t even feel it when I started to chew, but what I did feel was the overwhelming taste of the sea! The Crayfish tasted almost the same except for the fact that the meat was more chewy and rubbery. Oh! I almost forgot, you’re supposed slurp out the juices from the underside of the Crayfish before de-shelling it and eating the meat. It feels a bit awkward, but that’s how they do it!
I’ve also had the pleasure of joining two Swedish families for Dinner. In Stockholm we visited Yvonne, who prepared a lovely Roast Chicken (and gravy that was out of this world!!), and perfectly mashed Potatoes. After a tour of her lovely house, and a few minutes of ogling at her husband Harley Davidson in the garage, we were offered some Gingerbread with Saint Agur’s Cheese. I was a little skeptic when Yvonne said that we were supposed to apply some Cheese on the Gingerbread, but boy was I wrong! It was simply amazing and quite addictive! The crunch of the Gingerbread blended well with the creamy smooth slightly sour cheese! We washed it down with a warm half-mug of Swedish Glogg, a form of mulled wine enriched with different spices that tasted a lot like the Ayurvedic Arishta!
While in Gothenburg I was invited to a “Taco Friday” with Ulrika and her family. Tacos are neither Swedish nor Traditional, but it’s quickly becoming a modern day tradition in the Swedish households. And having to assemble your meal at the dinner table is an experience in itself! The variety of meats, condiments and sauces that Ulrika had combined for the meal was diverse yet complimenting; a perfect fusion of flavors!