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SURSTRÖMMING

WATCH: Spaniards try Swedish fermented herring, with hilarious results

If there is one thing that never gets old it's watching foreigners tackle Sweden's fermented herring delicacy surströmming. Now it's Spain's turn, after one of the country's most popular TV programmes asked a few locals to test the smelly fish for the first time.

WATCH: Spaniards try Swedish fermented herring, with hilarious results
Surströmming served the traditional way. Photo: Susanne Lindholm/TT

“El Hormiguero” (The Anthill) has been a stalwart of Spanish screens since 2006, forging a reputation for its experimental and scientific segments. This week, things took a Scandinavian twist as a group of lucky contestants were given the chance to taste surströmming: herring plucked out of the Baltic Sea then subjected to an ancient preservation method where it's stored for months to stew in its own bacteria.

“To carry out the filming, the production staff wore masks to eliminate the smell,” the narrator advises rather dramatically at the start of the video, setting the tone.

“Do you like fish?” he asks. “Yes, yes! Always, more than meat,” a participant replies enthusiastically.

His enthusiasm soon wanes however: as the cans are opened and the liquid inside sprays out it is met with cries of “It smells so bad!”, “Uff… what is this?!” and “Awful. You're sure this isn't out of date? Absolutely certain?”

And when the juices spray the face of the woman sitting next to him, another participant says something we absolutely can't translate into English (in Spain they're a bit more liberal when it comes to swearing). Keep in mind the Spaniards haven't even tasted the stuff yet.

READ MORE: Ten delicious Spanish delicacies to try before you die

One contestant, Diego, puts a brave face on it, taking a bite as a woman watches on in horror then deliberates for several minutes over whether she will do the same.

“I can't, I'm really sorry…”

“Yes I can.”

“I can't get close to it, I'm sorry.”

“A tiny bit, I'm going to try… Come on then! Give it some balls!”

After waving the fish back and forth in front of her mouth pitifully, the woman then finally takes a bite, only for her body to reject it, to say the least. Cue montage.

“Of the eight contestants, six were sick,” a caption card explains. “Along with part of the production team,” it adds, noting that even the office dog turned the fish down.

READ ALSO: What you need to know before trying Swedish fermented herring

When El Hormiguero asked a Swede to do it, his reaction was quite different.

“Lucky! There's caviar in here!” the Swede beams in delight while putting the smelly fish in his mouth before chewing it and adding “brilliant”.

Ruben Madsen, the foremost expert on the food and self-proclaimed 'Surströmming king' was not impressed with Spanish TV's take on the local treasure.

“I watched the video and they're doing everything wrong: the cultural illiteracy is evident! Unfortunately,” Madsen told The Local.

“Surströmming should be served like the delicacy it is. The can should be cold and not stored in the heat, it should be opened correctly and with the right tools. It shouldn't be eaten whole, but filleted. It should be eaten with various accompaniments like potato, onion, crème fraîche, tomato, and also bread, cheese and dill,” he explained.

“I've served surströmming thousands of times in Sweden, Finland, Norway, England, Denmark, Japan, Russia, Greenland and Iceland, and it has always been praised or received positively,” Madsen concluded.

The surströmming proponent would likely be just as unimpressed with The Local Sweden team, who ate the fish straight from the can last summer, filming the experience for posterity.

READ ALSO: Swedish agencies hit with stinky fermented herring attack

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FOOD & DRINK

The best vegan and vegetarian Spanish dishes

These are two words that don’t often go together – vegetarian and Spanish, as most vegetarians and vegans will only know too well, however, it may come as a surprise to discover that there are a few Spanish dishes that naturally do not contain any meat or fish.

The best vegan and vegetarian Spanish dishes

Whether you live in Spain or you frequently travel here, if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan you’ll know that finding traditional Spanish dishes can be tricky. But if you don’t want to have to eat international food all the time, you will discover that there are several meat and fish-free dishes that are Spanish classics. 

Espinacas con garbanzos

A dish traditionally found in southern Spain in Andalusia, this is essentially exactly how it’s translated – spinach with chickpeas. The dish has a long history dating all the way back to the Moors, who ruled southern Spain for almost 800 years. Completely vegan, the spinach and chickpeas are made into a type of stew with herbs and spices like paprika and cumin. Often pine nuts and raisins are added to the mix too.

READ ALSO: What did the Moors ever do for us?’ How Spain was shaped by Muslim rule

Spinach and chickpeas is a classic Andalusian dish. Photo: Xemenendura / Wikimedia Commons
 

Escalivada

A classic vegan dish from Catalonia, escalivada is a mix of slow-roasted vegetables, usually onions, peppers and aubergines. It can be eaten as a type of topping for large toasts called torradas and can sometimes have goat’s cheese melted on the top.

Calçots with romesco sauce

Another much-loved Catalan vegetarian dish is calçots with romesco sauce. Calçots are like a cross between a spring onion and a leek and are only available in the winter or early spring seasons. They’re typically grilled over an open fire until blackened. You must then remove the burnt exterior with a pair of gloves before dipping them in the romesco sauce. The sauce is a concoction made from toasted almonds and hazelnuts, tomatoes, garlic, toasted bread, olive oil, vinegar and dried ñora peppers. They can be a bit messy to eat, so restaurants will often give you a bib to wear too. 

READ ALSO – Recipe: How to make, eat and enjoy calçots

Try some calçots at a traditional calçotada. Photo: Esme Fox
 

Gazpacho

A dish that many are familiar with, this cold soup is traditionally from Andalusia, although it’s likely you’ll find it all over Spain in the summertime. It’s made from blended tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, bread, olive oil and garlic. 

Gazpacho is a cold tomato soup. Photo: Ирина Кудрявцева / Pixabay

Paella de verduras

Ordering paella in Spain can be tricky for vegans and vegetarians because the most traditional either contain seafood or rabbit, chicken snails and butter beans, like the ones from Valencia. Many places, however, now offer a paella de verduras, featuring only vegetables. Restaurants will use whatever is in season, whether that’s artichokes, green beans, peppers, asparagus, mushrooms or courgettes. The only difficult part is that many places will only do paellas for two or more people, so you have to hope your companions are willing to eat the vegan version too. 

A vegetable paella is completely vegan. Photo: Corophoto / Pixabay
 

Berenjenas con miel

This simple tapas dish translates as aubergines with honey and is essentially deep-fried aubergines usually dipped in bread crumbs or battered and then drizzled with molasses or treacle which is actually miel de caña, not the type of honey from bees. Although you can find it in many places in Spain, it’s typically from Andalusia and is very popular in Granada and surrounding areas.

A plate of berenjenas con miel is always a veggie favourite. Photo: Esme Fox
 

Patatas a lo pobre

Poor man’s potatoes might not sound very appetising, but this dish of fried sliced potatoes with onions, peppers and garlic is actually delicious. Again you’ll find it mostly in Andalusia, particularly in the Alpujarras mountains, just south of Granada.

Try some patatas a lo pobre in the Alpujarras. Photo: pxhere

Pisto

Similar to the French ratatouille, pisto is a stew made from cubes of aubergines, onions, peppers, courgettes and tomatoes. It comes from the region of Castilla-La Mancha and is often served with a fried egg on top. To make it vegan, simply ask for it without the egg.

Pisto is similar to the French ratatouille but is often served with an egg. Photo: Arnaud 25 / WikiCommons
 

Ajo blanco

This white garlic soup is a tasty combination of almonds, garlic, olive oil, bread and white wine or sherry vinegar. It comes from the areas around Málaga and Cádiz and like gazpacho is served cold. It’s sometimes served topped with grapes too. 

Ajo blanco is often served with grapes. Photo: cyclonebill / WikiCommons

Croquetas de boletus, ceps or espinacas

Croquetas are a favourite tapas dish throughout the country, and while many of them are filled with jamón (ham) or even squid ink, there are several vegetarian varieties too. Unfortunately, they are not vegan because they’re made with bechamel sauce, which contains dairy. The bechamel is mixed with various flavours and then covered in breadcrumbs before being deep-fried. Vegetarian varieties come in varieties such as boletus or ceps (types of mushrooms), espinacas (spinach) or cabrales cheese – a blue cheese from Asturias. 

READ ALSO – MAP: How well do you know your Spanish cheeses?

Try croquetas filled with spinach, mushrooms or cheese. Photo: Ralf Gervink / Pixabay

Salmorejo

Salmorejo is a cold soup similar to gazpacho, but it’s much thicker and creamier. It’s typically made from just four main ingredients – tomatoes, bread, olive oil and garlic. You can find it all over Andalusia, but it’s actually from Córdoba. Often it’s topped with ham and boiled egg, so simply ask for it sin jamón y huevo for it to be vegan. 

Ask for your salmorejo sin jamón for it to be vegetarian. Photo:Javier Lastras / Wikimedia Commons

Tortilla de patatas

One of the two only non-vegan dishes on our list is the classic tortilla de patatas, which you can find all over Spain and is definitely a meal you can rely on if all else fails. It is of course made from eggs and potatoes, but Spain is very divided on whether you should add onions or not. The Local is firmly on the onion side! 

Do you like your tortilla with or without onion? Photo: Luis MGB / Pixabay
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