The smell and taste of Surströmming is surrounded by legends, myths and tales that depict the ordeal of tasting the dish, dubbed as one of the worst smelling foods out there. But what does it actually smell and taste like?
Surströmming is basically fermented herring. The literal translation from Swedish, where the dish is part of the traditional cuisine, is “sour herring”. The fish, which is caught in the Baltic Sea just before they spawn their eggs, is salted just enough so it would not rot and at the same time, ferment. This is where the so-called magic happens – while bacteria that would make the fish rot are prevented from doing so, other bacteria that cause the smell.
No doubt, there are many adjectives or idioms to describe the smell. From disgusting, nasty, foul to nauseating, sickening and vomit-inducing, the smell of Surströmming has little to no fans across the globe. Even the Swedes, which adopted the dish as part of their cultural heritage, are at best tolerant of the stench of the fermented herring.
Nevertheless, the taste is actually more than okay. A bit sour due to the fact that it was salted to ferment but otherwise the taste nothing like the frown-inducing smell. Still unique and perhaps like nothing like out there in the world, Surströmming can truly boast about being a one-of-a-kind meal in terms of its characteristics. While perhaps it is not for everyone, as the smell alone can sway one away, tasting Surströmming will definitely become a very memorable event to look back on.