...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Food journal number 19: Lakrits

Ooooh, my posts keep on coming like ketchup from a bottle. It's a sure sign that I've finally started my summer vacation from school. Yes yes, yehey! This post was inspired by a comment from Toni that salmiac (salty licorice) is available at IKEA in Germany.

A licorice collage. I got the pictures from some German site all about licorice. For my own "licorice art," see below.

Liquorice (sometimes spelled as Licorice, but pronounced as licorish either way) is a candy I am assured to be "very very Swedish". Up here it is called lakrits, and I tell you: it's everywhere. No grocery or cafeteria would be without it, and candy stores have at least a dozen kinds, likely more. Below is my own rendition of licorice. As you can see, it comes in skull shapes and bottle shapes among other things...

To let you in on something, I actually don't like licorice all that much. When I was "tricked" by Marcus eat a piece of salty licorice, I tried to tuck that bottle-shaped piece inside my cheek just to avoid chewing on it, until I realized that chewing on it as fast as I could was probably the most efficient way of getting rid of the taste. But believe it or not, for the purpose of writing this blog entry, I taste-tasted at least five different kinds of licorice... which just goes to show how desperate I am for a new food journal idea, or that I just insist to know what I'm writing about. Actually by the third licorice piece, I actually thought I was beginning to like it... How could that be?

The licorice plant from which the flavor comes is actually (of all things) a legume. By boiling the roots and letting the liquid evaporate, one comes up with a sweet syrup about 50 times as sweet as sucrose (the word liquorice is said to derive from the ancient Greek "sweet root,") which in turn can be used for medicinal purposes as an expectorant or a laxative --I told you this stuff was nasty!-- or for curing mouth and peptic ulcers. Of course, let's not forget that the sweet roots could also be used for... yep!... making candy. As with most other things that have good effects though, excess is also bad for you: overeating salty licorice can apparently cause elevated blood pressure.

There are actually different kinds of licorice, several variants of which--through the possession of some strange licorice god--were actually tasted by yours truly when the celestial inspiration came upon me to write about it:

Sweet licorice (sötlaktrits) : tastes like that solid brown sugar block Filipinos use on porridge (panutsa). It even has the same kind of crumbly texture and the color of muscovado sugar (only the outer layer of the candy is black, due to the food colorant). Though they all generally taste like brown sugar though, they are usually flavored with anise, which gives it a distinct flavor. In the collage above, they would be the the ones coiled up, and those shaped into different things like cars.

English licorice ("Liquorice Allsorts"): an assortment of liquorice-flavored candies sold as a mixture. This mixture includes both plain sweet licorice candies as well as those flavored with fruit, coconut or even caramel (see the pictures above of liquorice tubes coated in yellowish caramel). "Allsorts" literally comes in all sorts, sizes, colors and shapes (including tube-, cube-, and even boy-shaped). I also taste-tested a licorice candy from this assortment that was not black but a translucent shade of cream covered by tiny light blue sugar-balls. By taste category though, these still fall under "sweet licorice".

Salty licorice (saltlakrits or salmiac): has another taste altogether and definitely has to be the single strangest candy type I've ever tasted. It's not even sweet... it's salty! Those white flecks that cover some licorice variants pictured above? They're not sugar, but salt, salt, salt! Oh, actually it's not even salt (NaCL, sodium chloride) but ammonium chloride (NH4Cl a.k.a. Sal Ammoniac, which BTW led to the tradename salmiac), described here as "salt with a biting, slightly sour taste." The saltiness is also amplified by the strong anise flavor in the licorice that takes over once the salt ...err... sal ammoniac had melted in your mouth.

In spite of its exotic flavor, the salty variant actually happens to be the more popular one here in Scandinavia, especially so in Finland. I like to describe the sensation of the salt-and-anise aromas crawling up my sinuses as getting pool water up your nose, but somehow Marcus likes his salty licorice all covered with white grains. The mere abundance of salmiac variants is probably also an indication that salty licorice lovers aren't a minority here, which means I'm the weird one for not liking the thing.

One last thing: I previously mentioned in my article on candy that one can even choose licorice here as an ice cream flavor (although this concerns the sweet variant and not the salty one). Though I was convinved at first that such thing couldn't possibly be popular, I just find myself constantly proven wrong by people who lick their black ice cream with gusto in various ice cream parlors...

...so, I tried it. Yes, me, the person who wouldn't even touch that grey-black glop if you asked me a few days ago. Yet this is what I would do for a food entry, and I will end this journal with my verdict. Licorice ice cream is...

This is the best way ever to enjoy licorice: sweet, cold, sugary, and yes -- with bits of salty black crunchy things which are (surprisingly) refreshing! (I chose another back-up flavor just in case I didn't like it though, heheh). Yes, it's stange but true, but the licorice ice cream actually made me have thoughts of converting into a licorice lover. I think I prefer the ice cream over the candy though, which has a tad too much anise flavor for me. But as in the case of the smelly, gooey durian fruit (read the section "flavour and odour" from that link), making things with an otherwise odd taste into ice cream just gives them a second, unexpectedly tasty dimension.


Anonymous ria said...

hi joy!

i have never liked lakrits, ate it once, never again...galing mo, you endured it!

do you need a food journal entry, i'll suggest one...surströmming! malapit na yun, sa august...*wink*

8:05 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

heheh... I know it Ria, you're trying to trick me :-D Baka "Survivor" orr "Fear Factor" yung maging kahulugan ng food entry na yun. Heheh. Have you eaten it yourself? BTW it was first time last Tuesday to eat a princesstårta. You're right, it's too much cream, but I like the green marzipan thing :-)

9:14 AM

Anonymous ria said...

yup! in fact, i love it! i always look forward to surströmming season and eat as much as i can. it's only the smell that is kinda gross but it tastes good really, tastes like "fresh" tuyo, kinda......to dampen the smell, just dump lots of gräddfil (sourcream) on it and top with lots of onion...afterwards, go to a disco, it'll be a reply of moses parting the red sea..hahhahaha (true story! happened to me!)

you like the marzipan? i always find it too sweet...took me quite a while to find a bakery that does just the right sweetness for me...

sige na, try surströmming!

8:38 PM

Anonymous ria said...

oopps, that should be replay instead of reply.. ;-)

8:39 PM

Anonymous pj said...

licorice! i never knew it was big in sweden--another thing to add to my list, along with pippi longstocking :D I don't like the taste much, myself--I always thought it would taste something like sarsaparilla (like Sarsi), for some weird reason... strange. how're you spending your summer, btw? :)

4:57 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Hi PJ! As usual, my summer is packed with... doing nothing. Heheh. But we also have the boat repairs ahead, and midsummer celebrations to look forward to.

Yeah, licorice is big in Sweden but not technically "Swedish" though. I think it's more of a Finnish thing. They're weird there. Heheh :-)

7:10 PM

Blogger vlado&toni said...

hi joy,

very nice blog entry about lakritz :)(we call them that way too here) glad that i could inspire you on that one. hmmm that ice cream flavor licorice looks yummy .. too bad we don't have that here :(

3:40 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Toni: I take it you like lakritz / lakrits (in German and Swedish spellings respectively!) Actually the reason why I took the pictures from a German site was I spelled it the German way (by mistake) in Google. As you might have guessed during your Stockholm visit, some Swedish and German words are very similar; or you might say that they're all German words but "Swedified" in our case.

You should come to Sweden in the summer and take a lakrits ice cream though. I just recommended it to classmate today from Nigeria and she liked it too, without even having heard of licorice. Yeah, as I always say: start on the right foot when it comes to licorice. Heheh!

10:37 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Ria: I'm a bit scared of the bulging cans where surströmming supposedly come from... but if I ever get offered, I will take the chance just to write about it, even if I never ever try it again. Bweheheh! :-D

10:39 PM

Blogger Ishtar said...

Lakrits, so Swedish! When I'm in Sweden, I rarely buy it, but I do miss it when I'm abroad!

Complements on a good site!

3:00 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Ishtar: Thanks for dropping by! Will check out your site soon, but I hope to see you here again some other time too!

4:06 PM

Blogger Christianne said...

Yikes, I hate licorice too. Edward can eat it but doesn't enjoy it :P really, masarap pala ang ice cream niya? Masubukan nga...

I love princesstårta. Yun lang at pytti panna ang talagang gusto ko na Swedish food, haha.

By the way, speaking of ice cream, count on The Local to find weird news like this. EWWW. http://www.thelocal.se/7579/20070612/

11:39 AM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Heheh... Just read the article. Yeah, the folks in Linköping ("that other city") are crazy! Heheh. I'm just biased ;-)

7:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you try Djungelvrål?

4:43 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

No, I just bought a bag of by-weight candy for 3.99/hg. Since you mentioned it, I can give it a try though!

7:54 AM


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