Surströmming, the overpoweringly pungent fermented North Atlantic herring, and divisive traditional staple of Swedish cuisine, has its devotees, but also its detractors. Now one Swedish chef is making it her mission to rehabilitate the salty, tinned fish and make Swedes love it again.
When spring brings plentiful shoals of herring to Swedish waters and the fishermen’s nets are full, the fish is left to ferment in barrels and then tinned, to allow it to be consumed throughout the winter.
While preserving the fish and giving it its distinctive flavour, the fermentation process also creates a pungent odour, so overpowering that tins are usually opened outdoors.
Surströmming is not appreciated outside of Sweden, and in recent years the delicacy has come to international notoriety, mainly through the type of ‘extreme eating’ videos found on YouTube.
Now chef chef Malin Soderstrom is making it her mission to defend the fishy delicacy to make sure it is appreciated in the right way.
“It doesn’t sound so appealing food,” she told AFP. “But if you think of it as rotten – that it’s not, because it is a fermented dish and I get quite upset when I see these YouTube clips when they just open a can in a room and it goes ‘boof’ and lots of liquid comes out and they try to eat it whole… I think it’s very important that you serve it in the right way.”