Swedish food, Part One: “what have the Swedes ever done for us?”

In her Reith Lecture in 2018, Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan said this about the Swedish people:


“Think of the Swedes”

“I mean we think of the Swedes now today as making
expeditions to Ikea, assembling furniture quietly, not getting cross at it. We
think of them going to the woods and picking berries. I mean they are a peaceful people.

If you lived in the 17th century, you would not want a Swedish army anywhere near you. They were notorious…. they were known throughout the Thirty Years’ War as some of the most vicious and dangerous soldiers around”.



So, besides rape and pillage – “What have the Swedes ever done for us?”


IKEA. The safety match. Björn Borg.

Electrolux, Ericsson, Hasselblad cameras, H & M, Saab, Skagen salad, Spotify, Volvo.



Add food to that list:

Gravlax, Meatballs, Lingonberries, Fika, and what seems like….

A Hundred Ways with Herring *


So what better place to start a search for Swedish food in Stockholm than a city market?

The handsome 19th century Östermalms Market Hall is undergoing extensive renovation, and activity has been rehoused in a temporary structure opposite.

It was late morning, and the traders seemed less busy than I expected, but I realised they were using their time well. As well as retail, most businesses have an on-site restaurant or takeaway offer, so the staff were calmly working as they prepared for the lunchtime rush.

All markets are best explored after coffee. Fika is the Swedish custom of lingering over coffee with something to eat, usually sweet; Robert’s Coffee fitted the bill perfectly.


FIKA – Cortado with buns; cinnamon and cardamom



Robert’s Coffee


Everything in the market is immaculately presented.


King Crab legs, with whole lobsters for scale


Japanese Wagyu Beef


You can have a sociable meal….


Tysta Mari for seafood


….or a quiet business lunch.


Do Not Disturb


A word of caution: many retail outlets in Stockholm do not accept cash. Take cards, not Kronor!


Tysta Mari in the market provided a splendid lunch – and they take cash!


A typical open sandwich



An open sandwich: avocado, prawns & mild pickled onions on rye bread.



“Fisksoppen” with Aioli



“Fisksoppen” was a wonderful soup – the broth spicy with cardamom, chunks of fish and whole plum tomatoes swimming beneath a shoal of prawns, all pulled together by a rich, garlicky Aoli.



Östermalmstorg, 114 39 Stockholm


Monday – Friday 9.30 – 19.00, Saturday 9.30 – 17.00



But I still hadn’t eaten Gravlax, Herring, Skagen or Meatballs.


I would have to take to the water!



* for more tips on Swedish cuisine, look no further than The Nordic Cook Book, where chef Magnus Nilsson helpfully and definitively describes how to deal with such delicacies as guillemot, reindeer heart, moose, pilot whale and puffin.



Nordic Fusion in Gamla Stan, the old city centre




2 thoughts on “Swedish food, Part One: “what have the Swedes ever done for us?”

  1. Susan Cameron


    My only comment is that we say Gravadlax, but you are probably right having been in Sweden. Otherwise informative and mouthwatering presented…

    1. admin

      According to The Nordic Cook Book, Gravlax derives from the Swedish “to bury”. It’s called Gravad laks in Danish. Complicated people, the Scandinavians….


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