Smelly Swedish Fish

0/10 would not recommend

12–6–16, Adil

When I mention “Swedish fish,” your mind probably conjures up images of colorful, hard-to-chew, overrated candy. Alas, there is another famous Swedish fish.

The fish is called surströmming. Surströmming is a fermented Baltic Sea herring that has apparently been a staple of Swedish cuisine since the 1500s. Why is it famous?

It is one of the smelliest foods of all time. Truly, it is horrifying. Just enough salt is used to prevent the fish from rotting, and it ferments for at least six months, giving it its famous smell and slightly acidic taste. When a can of surströmming is opened, it immediately releases the extremely foul odor, and often overwhelms those who aren’t expecting it/used to it. For this reason, it is highly recommended to open the can outdoors; however, it is also suggested to be eaten indoors, as the smell quickly attracts flies.

Let’s consider an illustrative case of just how insane this smell is. In 1981, a landlord evicted a tenant without notice for spreading surströmming brine around in the apartment stairwell. The tenant sued the landlord, but the landlord had an easy time defending his case: in court, he simply opened a can of surströmming, and it was game over. The judge ruled that no neighbor could possibly be expected to tolerate the smell of surströmming, so he ruled in favor of the landlord.

German food critic and author Wolfgang Fassbender says “the biggest challenge when eating surströmming is to vomit only after the first bite, as opposed to before.” In light of this, this video below is required watching (from 0:35 onward). It’s 2 dudes seeing who can go longer without vomiting:


Quick chemistry note: one of the compounds produced in the creation of surströmming is Hydrogen sulfide, which y’all may be familiar with. Yes, that is the poisonous, flammable compounds that reeks like rotten eggs. This is just one among many other components of surströmming; other compounds, for example, are reminiscent of strong body odor.

Surströmming is usually served as the focus of a traditional festivity called a surströmmingsskiva, or “surströmming party.” One heated point of contention is what to drink with surströmming; some claim it must be paired with cold milk, while others argue that a traditional Swedish dark malt beverage called svagdricka (brewed since the Middle Ages) is the only right choice.

So if any of y’all fancy yourselves as food connoisseurs, I would gladly drop $50 to watch you attempt to eat this. I can only hope it goes better than it did for the dudes in the video. And you better believe I ain’t gonna be in the room when you open that can.


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