29 January 2012


Surströmming... is a northern Swedish dish consisting of fermented Baltic herring. Surströmming is sold in cans, which often bulge during shipping and storage, due to the continued fermentation. When opened, the contents release a strong and sometimes overwhelming odor, which explains why the dish is often eaten outdoors...

[One] explanation of the origins of this method of preservation is that it began long ago, when brining food was quite expensive due to the cost of salt. When fermentation was used, just enough salt was required to keep the fish from rotting. The salt raises the osmotic pressure of the brine above the zone where bacteria responsible for rotting (decomposition of proteins) can prosper and prevents decomposition of fish proteins into oligopeptides and amino acids. Instead the osmotic conditions enable the Haloanaerobium bacteria to prosper and decompose the fish glycogen into organic acids, giving it the sour (acidic) properties...

Because surströmming today contains higher levels of dioxins and PCBs than the permitted levels for fish in the EU, Sweden has had exceptions to these rules. The exception was 2002 to 2011, but an application for renewal of the exemption has been raised to the EU...

In April 2006, several major airlines (such as Air France and British Airways) banned the fish citing that the pressurised cans of fish are potentially explosive. The sale of the fish was subsequently discontinued in Stockholm's international airport. Those who produce the fish have called the airlines' decision "culturally illiterate," claiming that it is a "myth that the tinned fish can explode.
 Text from Wikipedia.   Photo: Swedish "klämma" with surströmming, potatoes and red onion on a "tunnbröd" with butter besides a glass of milk.


  1. There is a very popular Asian fruit which many airlines (I've heard) won't allow on passenger flights as their odour is sooo bad. Durian, I think it is.
    Ask Mythbusters to check out the exploding can concept - they do quite a few viewer request experiments now :)

    1. I've had durian. The ride home with the thing in the back of the station wagon was nauseating. You could smell it in the kitchen curtains for days. They ban it in elevators, hotels, etc in SE Asia for a very valid reason. The flavor wasn't close to worth the stink for us. Imagine a mildly sweet pudding with a sour, almost onion undertone.

      As for the fermented fish, there are a few good videos of people trying to eat, it at least open, it.

  2. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204661604577186843056231170.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_editorsPicks_2

    The Wall Street Journal has a great article on various stinky and revolting foods found around the world.

    The article is a good read, as are the reader's comments.

    I really could go for some maggot cheese right now - yum!

    1. We actually covered "maggot cheese" several years ago. Bon appetit --



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