A Taste of Sweden- Food and Outdoor Markets of Stockholm

by Sarah on December 2, 2010

berries in stockholm

Our trip to Sweden was a rushed affair at the end of August, back to back against our family summer vacation to the Eastern Balkans. We arrived home only to drop off the kids at their grandparents and flew out the very next day. With my husband on business meetings, I was left alone to wander around the streets of Stockholm without the bubble of commotion I was accustomed to. It was both serenely relaxing and empty, my thoughts echoing in my head where their noise used to be.

gamla stan

In the lovely cold drizzle that is Swedish summer, I spent all day exploring the old city of Gamla Stan and its beautiful alleyways, churches and architecture.  I used the Lutheran churches as landmarks, their steeples rising above the residential and commercial buildings in clean geometric lines. Their interiors lack the heavy, baroque adornments favored by the Orthodox and Catholic and seem airy and light by comparison. In fact the only dark place was the Vasa Musuem which I thoroughly enjoyed once my eyes grew accustomed to the dim interior and I stopped crashing into people.  

lingonberries in sweden

It was at the outdoor market where I truly fell in love with the country. Here were fruits and vegetables that would be worth their weight in gold in the hot climate of Israel. Stalls sold mounds of delicate, perfectly shaped berries, rhubarb, chanterelle mushrooms, frilly dill and fruits imported from warmer areas of Europe. The market was much more toned down and tame than the ones I frequent in the Middle East. There were no pushy crowds, yelling or the musty odors of summers without rain.  Vendors certainly were not calling out on megaphones that their rhubarb was half price. Instead they chanted “Hey, hey, hey” just loud enough to get people’s attention. I wonder how the Swedes would react to Middle Eastern market tactics.

chanterelle mushrooms

In the evening I discovered that Swedish food is much more than lingonberry and raw herring. At the delightful Italian Swedish fusion restaurant called Sally’s I tried my first ever reindeer fettuccini and pondered the differences between Swedes and the rest of humanity. The gregarious Australian sitting next to us put it into prospective. He was an immediately likeable and chatty fellow that proudly told us of his gold medal win that very day for breaking the world record in a swimming competition (butterfly no less for age group 60-64, quite impressive). A typical reserved Swede wouldn’t start conversations with complete strangers, much less make eye contact, especially not in candle lit romantic restaurants.

I am diverging from the topic of food but the subject of eye contact is fascinating. While walking down the streets of Stockholm we realized that we could immediately tell Swedes from immigrants or tourists by a simple staring test. A Swede, with a personal space of 5 km, would immediately divert their eyes if they accidently came in contact with ours, looking anywhere – sideways, up, over their shoulders, down at their watch but never at us.  It’s a wonder they don’t bump into more people. The others will linger for a few seconds, standing you up, perhaps before diverting. It is a curious cultural difference.

saluhall

All this walking and staring made us very hungry so we hopped over to Stockholm’s very own food court, Saluhall. It is a fabulous place for a food lover with both traditional and exotic flavors from around the world.  There are a dozen different types of pickled herring, Swedish meatballs and dumplings that look very much like Middle Eastern potato dumplings (potato kubba). Vegetables, fruits, salamis, fish and even entire little piglets are offered for sale.  I was told that Sweden’s culinary diversity has greatly expanded in recent years, influenced by the large immigrant population, many from Iran and other countries in the Middle East.

saluhall stockholm

Bottom right- the famous French bresse tricolor chicken

 As another November heat wave washes over the country I dream of Stockholm’s wonderful dreary summer hoping that I will visit again.

Recommended Restaurants

 Grill

Sally’s

Västerlånggatan 52
111 29 Stockholm
Sweden

+46 (0)820 2512

Stockholm Fisk

Vasagatan 1, Stockholm 111 20, Sweden

08-50654100

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Miriam/The Winter Guest December 2, 2010 at 2:32 am

Beautiful market photos!

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Sarah December 2, 2010 at 4:03 am

Thank you Miriam, The lighting was perfect!

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turkey's for life December 2, 2010 at 2:35 am

Gorgeous photos again Sarah. Everyone we speak to who has been to Sweden absolutely loves it. I can’t say I expected to see such a variety of foods on the markets…and maybe being able to walk round calmly and serenely would be a welcome break from the thrice weekly (fun) battles of the Fethiye markets.

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Yael December 2, 2010 at 2:54 am

I thought It was supposed to be a guest post, your friend changed her mind?
Well, anyway, it’s a beautiful post and lovely pictures.

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Nancie December 2, 2010 at 4:11 am

I never realized that the Swedes were so reserved. Love the photos. That pig in the collage looks very relaxed :)

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Sarah December 2, 2010 at 4:16 am

Yes, piglet isn’t very halal or kosher but this is a post about Swedish food afterall

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Yael the Finn December 2, 2010 at 6:58 am

This is the post that I have been waiting for Sarah:-)
Oh those pictures made me so long for the Finnish summer,where the market places look exactly the same and also sound the same as in your pictures and words. I love Gamla Stan and Saluhall is such a great place to visit and have something yummy. Part of my family is from Sweden so I have visited there many many times.Btw,the Swedes are actually not that reserved,you should see how the Finns are…;D

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Sarah December 2, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Yael,
One of my favorite foods in Sweden are those raspberry pastries, such a great thing to wake up to for breakfast.
I have gotten to know a few Swedes and I agree that not all of them are as reserved as I make out in this article.

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Michael Hodson December 2, 2010 at 4:12 pm

really, really great photos — must go eat dinner now!

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Rich December 2, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Sarah – I noticed your blog had gotten a comment or two from egullet, and I’ve got to say, this was a really good read. I’m diving in further to your site. I’ve also suddenly become very self-conscious about how frequently I make eye contact with others, and what others think of my ability (or reluctance) to do so.

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Sarah December 15, 2010 at 2:03 pm

It is an interesting subject. So many common things are done subconsciously that you really have to think about them

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Ayngelina December 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Beautiful photos, everything looks so fresh.

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Sophie December 7, 2010 at 9:51 am

Saluhallen is a great place, isn’t it. Lovely photos.

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Andrew Murray December 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm

My oh my, I really fancy some fresh fruit now. There are some great photographs in this post!

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Sarah December 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm

thanks Andrew, not sure how much of that fruit lasts during winter, probably in jam or frozen form.

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Monika December 20, 2010 at 3:14 am

Great article and generally true about the Swedes (am Swedish). But, I got really disgusted by the pig! So distasteful to have a whole dead animal in the counter! Have never seen that before in my whole lifetime in Sweden.

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Sarah December 20, 2010 at 3:25 am

really? Since it was my first time in Sweden I figured it was typical (the pig), but thanks for letting me know otherwise. You are right that there are many people who would rather their meat come butchered and packaged, but it is common in other parts of the world.

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Robert Ellerson December 11, 2013 at 5:34 am

That was delightful.nice collections
Thanks for Sharing!!!!

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