...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Food journal number 18: Sill, Gravad lax and Nyponsoppa

Kristine is now back in New York, and Marcus and I are back to our workaday world. Things are now moving along the same routine, though I'm convinced that I've gained a kilo or two over the past week. Kristine, we miss you and your Mexican cooking! This calls for a food blog!

Upon coming here, Kristine the well prepared tourist was armed with a copy of DK Sweden, which happily had a chapter devoted to food with pictures of food plates and all. We spent some time looking at this and decided on a Swedish menu for her. Some of the food items I already wrote about in my past entries, such as cinnamon buns, kladdkaka, salty licorice, and chickpea soup served with pancakes. Now I will write about the other items in our Swedish Food Initiation list, namely pickled herring (inlagd sill), buried salmon (gravad lax), and rosehip soup served with ice cream (nyponsoppa).

On the plate: inlagd sill (marinated or pickled herring) and gravad lax (salmon preserved by salting and applying pressure, and thus "buried") on knäckebröd (hard bread)

I was expecting there to be a lot of fresh fish in Sweden, but actually it's much easier to find preserved kinds of all sorts --frozen, bottled, smoked, vaccuum packed -- than it is to find a fresh fish stall. The case might be different in Sweden's west coast where they catch most of the fish, but as far as I know that seems to be the case here on Sweden's east coast, as the combination of overfishing and heavy metals in the Baltic Sea made fish populations dwindle. In Marcus' grandfathers' days, salmon was the abundant poor folk's food such that they complained over having it more than 3 times a week! Nowadays, not only is meat so much cheaper; it's not healthy to eat so much salmon weekly if you want to avoid mercury poisoning.

I hear that one can still buy fresh fish from resident fishermen in the Swedish archipelago here, but the further inland you go, preserved fish sorts become the common fare. Marinading / pickling in sauce and "burying" in salt under pressure are some of the ways one can preserve fish, which is what's done to herring and salmon respectively. The pickled herring are usually bought in labeled bottles and come in different sauce flavors (including onion and mustard), and it is a staple in every smörgåsbord. The flavor is very sour, since the main preservative used in the sauce is ättika (a stronger type of vinegar), and the fish itself is fatty. I suppose it's a bit like Filipino kinilaw, sans chili, a tad more sour, and made with oilier fish -- altogether an acquired taste.

On the other hand, buried salmon is a crowd-pleaser. Instead of smoking the salmon strips (which is another way to preserve salmon), it is cured with salt, sugar and dill under pressure for some days, which is another way of "pickling", I guess. This fish is easier on the palate and delicious with both white bread or hard bread with some "gravad lax sauce", which is mustard-and-dill based. A note on salmon for the cautious: apparently, salmon is less pink in its natural state, but people prefer it rosier since they believe that its better that way. Therefore most manufacturers actually use artificial dye -- or according to some, feed salmon with colored food -- to achieve the desired rosy shade. Read this BBC article or this wiki one for more.

A box of nyponsoppa (rose hip soup)

Sorry, but I forgot to take a picture of the actual bowl of soup, which is served with a dallop (or two, or three) of vanilla ice cream on top. It was just so tasty-tangy on a hot day that I only thought of its food blog potential after I had licked my bowl clean :-D Good thing I rememberd to take a picture of the box, at least.

Nyponsoppa and ice cream, as you may have guessed, is more of a dessert or meryenda item than an actual meal. The rosehip soup tastes fruity (somewhat like berries -- they should perhaps call this rosehip juice), and may be served at any temperature from straight from the pot to straight from the fridge. On a hot day you can even simply pour it straight out of the box, as we did.

Obviously, it is made out of rose hip (pictures on the box), which are inedible in its natural state but turns fruity-flavored when cooked. It's also one of the richest plant sources for vitamin C.

I personally think nyponsoppa is best enjoyed when the vanilla ice cream has melted into it a bit, and becomes like a fruit syrup to the ice cream (yum yum!) Even Kristine, who wasn't convinced at first that soup will sit well with ice cream, happily took seconds without needing to be asked.

P.S. Kristine in Östergötland. Pictures of the week around the county of Östergötland (Norrköping- Linköping - Vadstena - Sturefors - Kolmården - Arkösund) uploaded at my photoblog. :-)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joy!

The pickled fish you brought here is still in the ref. We can't eat it, it tastes funny. Baka tinubuan na ng balbas? halos isang taon na pala yon! Yikes!

3:33 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

yikes! itapon nyo na yun! (Ilokano! Ilokano! Heheh). Kristine didn't like it either, hahaha! Ako, I prefer the one that's not mustard flavored... but anyway, I think we'll have more of that thing this midsummer. I'm thinking of contributing / eating an adobo to the potluck though.

8:14 PM


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