Eating surströmming for the first and last time

Stockholm Travel Blog

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Surströmming at the restaurant Tennstopet

This was an ultimate test for me. Some of my Danish friends had tried it before and stated that it was probably their most horrible experience while my Swedish colleagues said it was a must - even though many of them never had tried it before. 

Surstömming is basically a rotten fish from a tin can that looks like it is almost exploding. The cans cannot be carried on planes anymore, because if the open by accident then the smell will stay for ever and the plane will be useless.

The Surströmming is fermented Baltic Sea herring that has been a staple of traditional northern Swedish cuisine since at least the 16th century. When produces they just put enough salt to prevent the raw fish from rotting. The headless herring now begins a fermentation process, which converts sugar to acids, gases, and alcohol during a period of at least six months and it gives the lightly-salted fish its characteristic horrible smell and somewhat acidic taste.

Surströmming at the restaurant Tennstopet


When opened, the contents release a strong and sometimes overwhelming odour; the dish is ordinarily eaten outdoors. According to a Japanese study, a newly opened can of surströmming has one of the most putrid food smells in the world, even more so than similarly fermented fish dishes such as the Korean Hongeohoe or Japanese Kusaya.

The Baltic herring is smaller than the Atlantic herring, found in the North Sea and the herring used for surströmming are caught just prior to spawning. At the end of the 1940s, producers lobbied for a Swedish Royal decree that would prevent improperly fermented fish from being sold. The decree forbade sales of the current year's production in Sweden prior to the third Thursday in August. The decree is no longer law, but the trade still abides by the date for the premiere.
Surströmming at the restaurant Tennstopet


We had booked the table one year in advance just to make sure we would get a table. I took a taxi there straight from my work and I asked the taxi driver if he had tried it - why should I he said, which I found pretty fair. As we got close to the restaurant he rolled down the windows so I could smell that I was getting close. The smell was horrible!

I had read in a newspaper that for the whole festival week where they serve the dish, the surrounding shops closes 15 minutes before they open the first can and if the wind is wrong you can smell it as far as 200 meters away.

There were many tables outside on the street and we would get one of those. We were nine persons all from work meeting up, some had tried it before and some never, just like me.
Surströmming at the restaurant Tennstopet
Luckily there were some people from Northern Sweden who had done this many times. 


The smell was awful as we sat down at the table. The cans were opened, there were onion, butter, chives, potatoes, flat bread and sour cream, which was what you need according to the tradition. First task was to fish the herring out of the tin can without getting any juice from the can on yourself. Then you had to clean the fish, and only find the meat of the fish.

Next task was to put butter on the flat bread and then paste out the fish on the bread and cover it with onions and chives. On top of this you had to put slices of potatoes which you had to peel first - finally you put sour cream on top that. Honestly it was not so bad after all but after the first 4 herrings I had enough!

I did it - and I will never do it again.

The restaurant was nice and the waiters were busy but still friend. It was a bit pricy but once in a lifetime is okay.

ik-ben-10eke says:
This story is like a moving picture, love it.
Posted on: Aug 27, 2015
Chokk says:
It was indeed - and it was one I had to do in order to face my Swedish colleagues here in Stockholm :D
Posted on: Aug 25, 2015
Vikram says:
Well it was worth the experience!
Posted on: Aug 24, 2015
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Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Surströmming at the restaurant Te…
Surströmming at the restaurant T…
Stockholm Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Surströmming - the Swedish nightmare
This was an ultimate test for me. Some of my Danish friends had tried it before and stated that it was probably their most horrible experience while m… read entire review
Stockholm
photo by: EmyG