Exploring Scandinavian Cuisine

One of the best ways to learn about a culture is to try the regional cuisine. While in Sweden, I tried a multitude of regional dishes with origins from both the North and South of the country. Some characteristics of classic Swedish cuisine include a wide variety of unique meat dishes, including cured reindeer, moose burger, and beef meatballs. Meats are often served with a side of boiled potatoes, pickles or pickled onions, and lingonberries. Lingonberries are bright red tart berries that are preserved and formed into a sweet jam that accompanies dishes ranging from Swedish meatballs to cured reindeer hors d'oeuvres and breakfast pancakes.

1. Swedish Meatballs & Lingonberries

In Sweden, I discovered the combination of lingonberries with gravy covered Swedish meatballs. With a juxtaposition of sweet and savory, the rich dish gave a taste of Swedish flavors. The lingonberries provide the dish with a pop of color and a vibrant sweetness that makes Scandinavian cuisine distinct.

2. Plate from the North: Featuring Cured Reindeer

Reindeer meat is a Scandinavian delicacy that is hard to come by in most other areas of the globe. Given Northern Sweden's close proximity to the Arctic Circle, there is a plentiful supply of reindeer in the area. In Sweden, reindeer can be prepared in various ways, such as cured, grilled, baked, and smoked. This reindeer charcuterie assorted plate included cured reindeer, cheese from Jantuand, smoked heart of reindeer, and smoked char. The reindeer meat was rich, salty, and delicious. I'd never tasted anything quite like it. The meat has a very deep red undertone, and can be served alongside lingonberries, toast, cheese, or salad.

3. Minced Moose Steak

The minced moose steak burger was the best burger I have ever tasted. Everyone at our table sampled it, and the flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth burger became the envy of our group. It was served with pickled cucumber and daikon, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry. Both the moose burger and the reindeer meat are an indication of the surrounding wildlife in the Scandinavian region. The moose and reindeer meat dishes encompass the history of hunting in Scandinavia, and the love of nature and the outdoors. The ingredients and flavors in the traditional Swedish dishes are indeed a reflection of the natural resources and wildlife that can be found in the dense forests of Sweden.

4. Pitepalt of Piteå

According to the official definition of Pitepalt on Wikipedia: “Pitepalt is a Swedish dish related to kroppkakor or meat-filled dumplings, and named after the city of Piteå, thought to be its place of origin”. Our group went to the Paltzeria, which specializes in creating the native Pitepalt meat dumplings. The dumpling casing is thick and soft, encompassing a center of boiled meat. It is served with a slice of butter, lingonberry preserves, shredded carrrots, and washed down with a glass of milk. The salt of the butter, mixed with the savory dumpling and the sweet jam are a combination of flavors that represent the small city of Piteå. It's a hearty dumpling that can definitely serve as a comfort food during the cold winters of Northern Norway.