Sweden isn’t usually thought of as a huge culinary destination but more and more travellers are discovering that the country has much to offer, with numerous acclaimed chefs and Michelin starred restaurants appearing on the scene over the last decade.
On the west coast, the rugged coastline of the province of Bohuslän with its vast archipelago of innumerable islands has long been drawing Swedes, Norwegians, Danes and Germans with its blend of gorgeous scenery, sunny summer climate, rich culture and amazing seafood. Now, tourists from the Americas, Middle East and Asia are discovering it has more to offer besides the famous Swedish meatballs.
Gothenburg, Sweden’s “2nd City” and the region to the north are particularly worth visiting-especially in summer, when the sun shines almost 20 hours a day and the ocean temperature rises enough to make a daily swim part of your routine.
Gothenburg is an old trading and seafaring city founded by Dutch traders with a rich maritime heritage and gorgeous canals, and boasts no less than 7 Michelin starred restaurants. It’s the largest port in Scandinavia, home to Volvo, and specializes in serving seafood. One excellent example is Koka, with its 7 course tasting menu, sourced from local and seasonally available ingredients – its specialties include the local mackerel, trout roe, oyster mushrooms strawberries and amazingly creamy butter, made in-house.
An important food to Swedes at all times, and a must-try, is the fresh pre-cooked seafood available at specialty shops, supermarkets and restaurants — typically shrimp, crayfish, and crab. Caught locally in the North Sea and cooked onboard the fishing boats – the seafood on each boat is marinated with its own secret method, typically in sweet-salty brine with dill. These shrimp are hands down the best shrimp you will find anywhere in the world. The crayfish are also something special, as they are basically easy-to-eat mini lobsters with succulent meat. Tip: a few crayfish and a couple dozen shrimp with bread, butter and beer make an amazing picnic lunch
Another local speciality of Bohuslän is the shellfish – acclaimed by many gastronomes as ‘the best shellfish in the world’. Although this is quite the claim, the oysters and mussels have a fresh, briny, wild taste that is really quite special. This acclamation begins to make sense as more time is spent on the coast swimming and boating; the coastline is quite pristine and the ocean has an amazing variety of seaweed, with a very fresh smell to the water that has a huge effect on the shellfish flavour.
Of course, Sweden’s surf is complemented by its turf. It happens to be the 3rd largest country (by area) in the EU, as well as the most sparsely populated, with vast forests and lakes teeming with wildlife. Thus, lake-fish and wild game such as boar, moose, elk, deer and even reindeer, are must-tries while visiting. Many restaurants here specialize in cooking wild game to perfection, so if you’ve always been hesitant to try something exotic and healthier than factory-raised meat, Sweden is the place to try it
While many travellers think of other major European culinary destinations first, savvy travellers with an eye towards sustainable, local, high quality food, should look north to Scandinavia and, particularly, the Swedish region of Bohuslän, for interesting culinary experiences.