Part of my Vegan MoFo 2013 is doing blog entries dedicated to each year I've been vegan.
In 2009, I decided to be a single lady doin' it for herself. Leaving my boyfriend at home, I traveled for three weeks across Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden. While all of it was fantastic, the highlight of my trip was returning to Sweden to see friends and family, most of whom I hadn't seen in eight years.
PictureCrustaceans & cheese: together at last!
Sweden is not a country from which one usually draws culinary inspiration. It is arguably one of the only countries in Europe with a traditional cuisine nasty enough to give the British a run for their money. I see your blood pudding and raise you a tube of räkost (shrimp cheese). Spotted dick, you say? Let me introduce you to the Swedish national food, surströmming, which is herring that has been canned and is not opened again until the can is bulging at both ends. It's not all rotten sea creatures in Sweden, though. This is, after all, the country that gave Swedish Fish to the world!

One lovely Swedish tradition that I appreciate is that of fika- a coffee break and mid-afternoon snack. Fika (pronounced "feeka") literally means "to take," so it should speak to how, despite being a relatively recent tradition, coffee has become deeply ingrained in Swedish culture: when your friend asks you "ska vi fika? Shall we take?" the natural word to place at the end of that sentence is kaffe (coffee).

Naturally, the centerpiece of any fika is strong, hot coffee: my cousin Cathrine, in describing how Swedes generally take their coffee, uses a phrase which loosely translates to "miscarriage-inducing." But equally important as the coffee is what you serve along with it.


Ah, kanelbullar. If there were a national pastry of Sweden, these would be it. Kanelbullar are so ubiquitous that you can even buy them from 7-11 (yes, Sweden has 7-11). Kanelbulle literally means 'cinnamon bun,' but it's far from what Americans would call a cinnamon roll. The distinct flavors that dominate these treats are cardamom and cloves. It's a pretty simple process- a yeasted dough, rolled out and coated with a spiced margarine, then rolled up, sliced into buns, and sprinkled with pärlsocker (pearl sugar). One of the defining touches of an authentic kanelbulle is the little pleated pastry cup it's served in. White is usually the norm, but some bakeries will go fancy with striped cups or even cups with ornately scalloped edges.
Making vegan kanelbullar at home is super easy- the only ingredient that may present a challenge is the pearl sugar. If you have an Ikea nearby, their food shop will undoubtedly carry it. Alternately, check with specialist baking shops or European food importers. I cannot 100% guarantee, but it's very probably likely that any pearl sugar imported from Scandinavia will be vegan- Denmark is a huge producer of sugar beets and bans the importation of cane sugar to their country. Because pearl sugar is an ingredient specific to Scandinavia, pretty much all brands that manufacture it use Danish beet sugar. Beet sugar production does not use the charcoal filters, often made from animal bone, that many commercial cane sugar producers utilize.


A Swedish smörgås (pronounced "smurr-goass") is often not what an American would think to call a 'sandwich.' For starters, they're usually open-faced. They're often eaten with breakfast as well as during fika, dinner, or any other time of day. They may contain familiar ingredients like ham, cheese, or lox, but they also contain some mystifying ones like hardtack or the aforementioned shrimp-cheese in a tube (also available: crawfish-cheese and moose-cheese).

I've mastered what I think is a pretty decent (and flavor-wise, pretty accurate) vegan smörgås, perfect for fika. Although I prefer using Siljan's knäckebröd, I think Wasa or Finncrisp brands would work just fine (and probably be a more conveniently-sized package for kitchen shelves). Alternately, you can also build your smörgås on a thick slice of fresh limpa (baguette) or tunnbröd (think Arctic lavash).

Of course, a generous smear of smör (Earth Balance in this case) goes on first. If you've got some fancy vegan cheese like Cheezly or Sheese, then go to down on that with an osthyvel for a few thin slices to lay down on top of your EB. I don't routinely stock fancy expensive cheeses in my kitchen, so to get that hint of umami, I like to spread a thin layer of Marmite over the EB. Thinly-sliced gurka (cucumber) and tomat (o) are great toppers, as is a wee sprinkle of salt. If you have some vegan bacon or rashers, this would be a great place to use them as well. 



09/19/2013 3:30pm

Great tip on the pearl sugar. I'm about due for a trip to IKEA.

09/20/2013 8:53am

I'm always pleasantly surprised by the amount of vegan stuff the Ikea food store has. It's hidden amongst the various stinky fish products, but it's there!

It's not all rotten sea creatures in Sweden, though. This is, after all, the country that gave Swedish Fish to the world!

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