10 foods you need to eat when visiting Swedish Lapland

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Nordic cuisine is currently having a moment in the global spotlight, but in the north of Sweden – far from the Michelin stars and molecular gastronomy of Stockholm and Gothenburg – sustainability and seasonality have been a part of the food scene since before it was on-trend.

Deeply rooted in nature and tradition, Swedish Lapland is a particularly satisfying destination for travelers who are hungry for something different. Here’s what to try.

Coffee cheese

Kaffeost (coffee cheese)Kaffeost (coffee cheese) — Photo courtesy of Pernilla Ahlsén/imagebank.sweden.se

Though coffee and cheese don’t sound like the most appetizing pairing, the combo is actually very tasty. First, the “kokkaffe” (boiled coffee) is prepared, where coarsely ground coffee is boiled over an open fire. Then, the coffee gets poured into birch wood cups called “kosa,” and several cubes of mild, spongy cheese are added.

The cheese, which is made from reindeer or cow milk, doesn’t flavor the coffee, but the coffee infuses the cheese, imparting it with a gentle, roasted flavor and a squishy texture. (This is one of those dishes you just have to try.)

Reindeer

Cured reindeer filletCured reindeer fillet — Photo courtesy of Jakob Fridholm/imagebank.sweden.se

The Sámi, the Indigenous people of Lapland, have been living and herding reindeer in this region for generations. For the Sámi, reindeer meat is a dietary staple and every part of the animal is utilized as a form of respect for nature.

Restaurants all over Lapland serve reindeer in a variety of ways, including sophisticated filet steaks and cured as carpaccio. Low in fat and completely free-range, lean reindeer meat makes for a healthy option with a surprisingly mild flavor that’s less gamey than you may expect.

Moose

Moose roast beefMoose roast beef — Photo courtesy of Jakob Fridholm/imagebank.sweden.se

Moose are ubiquitous in Northern Sweden and there are actually more moose per square kilometer in Sweden than any other country. With such a massive wild population, moose is another dietary mainstay for most residents of northern Sweden. (Hunting and eating moose is actually imperative to control the population.)

Moose meat can be used in a variety of ways. It’s often minced and made into meatballs or meatloaf, and it can also be dried and enjoyed as jerky.

Arctic raspberries

Arctic raspberry dessetArctic raspberry desset — Photo courtesy of Jakob Fridholm/imagebank.sweden.se

Difficult to pick and hard to source, succulent Arctic raspberries (also called Arctic brambles) are a sought-after, slow-growing bramble from the mountains and Arctic regions. Foraging for wild berries is still an everyday practice in northern Sweden and many people use them to make their own jams and compotes.

Try Arctic raspberries fresh or in a dessert tart.

Kalix löjrom

Kalix löjromKalix löjrom — Photo courtesy of Magnus Skoglöf/imagebank.sweden.se

Kalix löjrom is the neon-orange roe of the freshwater whitefish known as the vendace, which can be found in the slightly salty waters off the coast of Kalix, where freshwater rivers meet the sea. Kalix löjrom is a delicacy, and it’s served like caviar (with bread, chopped red onions and sour cream).

It’s the only Swedish product to have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, which is a prestigious distinction issued by the European Union to protect the reputation of regional and/or traditional products that can only originate in a specific place.

Hot lingonberry juice

LingonberriesLingonberries — Photo courtesy of Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se

Sharing a similar tartness and color to cranberries, lingonberries are popular all around Sweden. However, in Swedish Lapland, one of the best ways to enjoy these ruby-red forest berries is as a hot drink.

If you’re brave enough to stay in a cold room at Icehotel, the world’s original hotel made of ice and snow, a staff member will wake you up with a steamy mug of lingonberry juice. Rich in antioxidants, a hot lingonberry juice is a nice way to start the day – especially during winter’s polar nights, when the sun never fully rises.

Västerbotten cheese

Västerbotten cheeseVästerbotten cheese — Photo courtesy of Nicole Trilivas

Västerbotten cheese has an interesting origin story: According to local folklore, a dairymaid in the village of Burträsk was distracted by her lover while making cheese and had to reheat the curds several times. Her drawn-out work resulted in the tangy, nutty, slightly bitter and completely singular Västerbotten cheese, which is only made in that small village (it doesn’t taste the same if it’s made anywhere else).

All over Sweden, this hard, cow’s-milk cheese is considered a gourmet treat, and it’s often served at Nobel Prize banquets. But it’s also readily available in northern Sweden, where it often makes an appearance at the start of a meal as part of a cheese plate.

Cloudberries

CloudberriesCloudberries — Photo courtesy of Sara Ingman/imagebank.sweden.se

Cloudberries are the rare and highly sought-after wild berry that’s almost too beautiful to eat – almost. A potent source of vitamin C, sunset-hued cloudberries grow in raspberry-like clusters in boggy mountain terrain, and their tart and juicy flavor complements both sweet and savory dishes, but they don’t come cheap.

Cloudberries are usually made into a jam (try it warm on vanilla ice cream), or for a new twist, try a cloudberry-infused vodka cocktail.

Arctic char

Arctic charArctic char — Photo courtesy of agnus Skoglöf/imagebank.sweden.se

Arctic char is a coldwater fish usually found in the fresh mountain lakes of northernmost Lapland. With a bright red belly, it can be caught via ice fishing. Once cooked, the meat takes on the color of salmon, which is actually in the same fish family as the Arctic char.

Try it raw with fresh roe served on Icelandic rye bread at Bryggargatan in Skellefteå, the southern-most city in Swedish Lapland. Or sample it on the special Ice Menu at the Icehotel, where it’s served cold-smoked with birch mayonnaise on a brick of fresh ice from the nearby Torne River, which borders Finland.

Gáhkku

Gáhkku with reindeer meatGáhkku with reindeer meat — Photo courtesy of Anna Ohlund/imagebank.sweden.se

Gáhkku, meaning “ember flatbread,” is a typical Sámi bread eaten with reindeer fat or butter. The soft, chewy flatbread is similar to a pita and is cooked and charred over an open fire on a stone, grill or iron skillet. It’s often served with salted and smoked reindeer meat.

Try it at the Sámi camp, Nutti Sámi Siida, where gáhkku and reindeer are served in a teepee-like lávvu tent with a roaring hearth in the center.



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