Fermented smelly Swedish fish: Surströmming

Posted by Scandinavian (Bee) | Food & Recipes, Fun stuff, Scandi Life

If you have ever had to smell the Swedish fermented herring Surströmming it is often hard to imagine that this is a popular delicacy in Sweden.

Some people say it smells so bad they can’t even describe it. It was once voted the worst smelling food in the world. Durian fruit has nothing on this little fish – it really stinks.

Why does it smell so bad? The little herrings are caught and then salted and left to ferment for quite some time before being canned. Even inside the tin, the fermentation process continues which is why the tins are pressurised when you open them (be careful).

It’s known as ‘fermented herring’ or ‘surströmming’ – or some just call it ‘rotten fish’ (but it isn’t: it’s fermented, which is a different thing).

The smell might be bad – but the taste is quite nice – and a lot of people really enjoy the whole process of eating it. There are even surströmming parties and get together when the season starts in about August.

Quite surprisingly, here in the UK, this is quite a popular product – a lot of people buy it as joke presents and just trying to see if they can handle the #surstrommingchallenge.  Can you?

How to serve and store

  • Always store the tin IN THE FRIDGE when unopened. It needs to be chilled. Do NOT keep it ambient.
  • ALWAYS open outdoors – never, ever indoors. The smell will hang around. Most surstromming is eaten outside, too.
  • Hold a cloth around you hand when you open the tin as it is pressurised. Some people open it under water which stops this a bit – and limits the smell, too. Gloves are good…
  • You need to wash and gut the fish before you eat it. This is quite easy: Hold the fish on a chopping board with the fork and scrape along the body with the knife to remove meat from the fish.
  • Serve with Swedish flatbread, with new potato, red chopped onion and sour cream. Enjoy beer and aquavit on the side for a true fermented herring party.

Please note most airlines do not allow these tins to be transported as they are pressurised (and can you imagine the smell?) so do not plan to take these tins on any flights. We only ship inside the UK.

This is when our Jonas opened fermented herring in Hyde Park


    Arla Gräddfil – Sour Cream 300ml
    Hallands Flader 38% – Aquavit 700ml
    Mjalloms Gammeldags Tunnbrod – Wheat & Rye Flatbread 320g FRAGILE ITEM – MAY BREAK IN TRANSIT
    Oskars Surstromming *(Ship to UK ONLY) – Fermented Herring 300g STORE CHILLED
    Polarbrod Sarek – Thin Flatbread 8-pack – (frozen item – see notes)
    Skane Akvavit 38% – Aquavit 700ml


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