Surströmming: The Smelliest Fish On The Planet!

Think of the worst stench you’ve ever had to smell, and now multiply it by 100x.

What would come out as a result is most likely surströmming – the smelliest fish on Earth.

But what exactly is surströmming made of? And why does it smell so hellish?

This small Baltic herring is a traditional Swedish dish and it can be caught in the spring season. It is salted and left for fermentation before being stuffed in a metal tin for about a month before it gets shipped to the market.

Image: Routes North

The process of fermentation continues in the tin and the Swedes call it ‘souring’. And at the end of it, you get stinky surströmming. The stench is unbearable, and the taste is rounded yet piquant with a distinct acidity. The special fermentation comes as a result of a lactic acid enzyme in the fishes’ spine.

Image: Routes North

When do people normally eat surströmming?

The end of August is most popular, and there’s even a special surströmming festival in Alfta, Hälsingland in the north of the country. But surströmming fans prefer to savor the previous year’s vintage for tenderness and a fully mature flavor (and stench).

Where is it best to eat surströmming?

Definitely outdoors. Don’t make the mistake of opening one at home.

Who normally eats surströmming?

Traditionalist Swedes, food explorers, and ill-advised tourists…

How can you eat surströmming as locals do?

As the tin is pressurized, it is best to open it in a basin of water. Wash it, then gut it, and wrap it in buttered tunnbröd, a type of sweetened flatbread, with slices of almond potatoes and diced onion. Get some beer and your friends over, and you’re all set to go.

And that’s pretty much it. Now go and enjoy your surströmming (if you can)! 😉

Would you try Surströmming if you had the chance? Let us know your thoughts by joining the conversation in the comments and please share if you’ve enjoyed this article.

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