sweden

Food Stories

Swedish Salty Licorice

By Suzannah Schneider | August 15, 2014

Image by /kallu
Image by /kallu

Image by /kallu

It’s unfathomable to most, coveted by some. Enthusiasts keep an emergency stash of the stuff in their purse; others take a nibble and promptly spit it out. It elicits passion, nostalgia, pain, discomfort, and satisfaction.

Ah, yes, Swedish salty licorice.

Swedish candy is notoriously fantastic, but salted licorice is the black sheep of the otherwise delectable family of gummy sweets. The stuff is potent and undoubtedly polarizing.

Licorice itself is the root of a plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra that is native to Spain, Italy, and Asia. The plant contains a component that is 20-40 times sweeter than sugar, so it is logical flavoring option for candy.

No one quite knows how or why licorice candy was first combined with a salty flavor, but its history as a confectionary began in Scandinavia in the 1930s. Salted licorice, however, doesn’t actually contain any salt. The brininess comes from the chemical ammonium chloride, so salted licorice is often called salmiakki, the Finish word for ammonium chloride. Modern salty licorice ranges in color from light brown to deep black, and it may be chewy or hard. Salted licorice is popular in Sweden, of course, as well as The Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, and Germany.

What is so enticing about salted licorice for Scandinavians? Consider the classic dishes gravlax or pickled herring. Bitter saltiness is deeply embedded in Scandinavian cuisine and home cooking, so a salty flavor is intertwined with notions of comfort and home. Curing meat and fish with salt during the long winter months is standard practice for many Scandinavians in past and present time, so an affinity for salt is deeply rooted in the Scandinavian palette.

On the other hand, salty licorice could merely exist as national entertainment. Many Scandinavians admit to enjoy feeding salty licorice to tourists just to watch them squirm. Some say it’s almost a national sport!

Most Swedes consume salted licorice as typical candy, but many also enjoy Turkish Pepper Shots, which are hard salted licorice popped into a shot of vodka. If you’re hooked to the flavor, it’s easy to want to infuse everything with salmiakki. However, too much licorice can cause a spike in blood pressure, so be careful not to overdo it.

Salty licorice is a unique treat for a large part of the world. It acts to demonstrate the diversity of global food preferences and the fascinating ways in which tastes are formed through the forces of climate, culture, and ecology.

Have you ever tried salty licorice? What was your experience like?

 

ChefCommunityNewsTravel

Catching Up with HEAF’s 2014 Learning for Social Impact Course

By Marcus Samuelsson | July 28, 2014

Photo courtesy of HEAF

Last month a group of students from Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF) spent an afternoon with me in Ginny’s Supper Club to learn about Swedish food and culture. The discussion and cooking demonstration were in preparation for the students’ trip to Stockholm as part of HEAF’s Learning for Social Impact cultural literacy course. I recently caught up with Jadira Mora, HEAF’s Program Coordinator of College Quest, to hear more about the group’s adventures in my homeland.

On a bike tour of the Royal National City Park. Photo courtesy of HEAF

The students kicked off their trip with an invigorating bike tour of the Royal National City Park. They got to see the area the way most Scandinavians do – by bicycle. Other trip highlights include a tour of Stockholm City Hall, a fascinating lesson on the history of Swedish music, a visit with the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, and a meeting with King Entertainment, the creators of Candy Crush Saga. Additionally, the LSI class enjoyed conversations with The Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce over a traditional Swedish Fika (coffee break). The HEAF students also met kids their own age to compare personal experiences, and attended the first World Cup game screening put on by Ortens Favoriter, a youth organization in the suburbs. I wish I could’ve been there!

Enjoying a traditional Swedish Fika with The Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy of HEAF

Jadira facilitated debriefings each night so the students could discuss their experiences of the day. The students faced a lot of culture shock, and were surprised to encounter a different kind of diversity in Sweden. They found that diversity often relates to different nationalities instead of different colors of skin.

Of course, the HEAF students thoroughly enjoyed Swedish cuisine. They ate meatballs similar to the kind I made with them, enjoyed a lot of fish, and even tried Gubbröra, which is a traditional Swedish anchovy dish that translates to “Old Man’s Mix.” The students were surprised at the large portion sizes that were available in restaurants, and were delighted by Swedish chocolate. (We do have the best candy!)

It was great to hear about the students’ trip, and it was an honor to work with them beforehand to discuss my experience growing up in Sweden. I hope to see my HEAF friends again soon.

Photo courtesy of HEAF

Photo courtesy of HEAF

News

Best of the Week: Our Most Popular Stories

By Alexandra Fleischman | June 14, 2013

Princess Madeleine Wedding

Princess Madeleine Wedding

Brain freeze, illustrated.

Brain freeze, illustrated.

This week, we took a closer look at what we realized we didn’t know, and learned a lot. Beginning with morels—those alien-looking, intimidating fungi—we fried them, and found that they weren’t scary, just addictive. At the farmers’ market, we learned the secrets to more produce (read: don’t be afraid to buy anything as long as it’s in season). The same goes for the colorful rainbow swiss chard, whose versatility adds to its healthy charm. And, if you’ve ever been struck by brain freeze and wondered what could have possibly gone wrong, look no farther. We found out, and you can blame sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia from now on. For Marcus, the adventure continued as he attended the beautiful, fairytale royal wedding of Swedish Princess Madeleine to her New Yorker, hedge funder Chris O’Neill. Read More

News

Word Around the Web

By Alexandra Fleischman | June 10, 2013

asparagus, news, blood pressure
asparagus, news, blood pressure

Photo: Calliope

Family and cooking go hand in hand, and family recipes can stay with us our whole lives. But, most of us can’t claim our family invented the reuben.

What would the world do without cheese, corn flakes, popsicles, and chocolate chip cookies?

We love strawberries and their incredible versatility, especially when they’re in season.  Bon Appétit delineates the many varieties.

New research might make asparagus the new superfood. According to NPR’s The Salt, a compound in asparagus lowered blood pressure in rats. Time to change your dinner plans? Read More

Travel

Wanderlust: Midsummer in Sweden

By Mac Malikowski | May 15, 2013

Midsummer_Sweden

The summer solstice occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet’s semi-axis in a given hemisphere is most inclined towards the star that it orbits…and if you haven’t brushed up on your astronomy recently, it’s also means it’s time to party. Midsummer is a celebration based on the summer solstice. In Sweden specifically, Midsummer is take place on the third weekend of June with the main festivities taking place on the Friday of that weekend (this year is looking like June 21st). Read More

NewsTravel

Abba Museum in Stockholm, Sweden

By Mac Malikowski | May 10, 2013

ABBA
ABBA

Photo: WikiCommons

This past week, the Abba Museum opened in Stockholm, Sweden to hundreds of fans ready to relive the unique saga of the native pop group. (Too bad Marcus, a lifelong fan, wasn’t around for the unveiling.) The museum, in collaboration with the Music Hall of Fame, boasts unparalleled memorabilia, a full-service dance floor and the actual studio console with which Abba recorded their signature sound.

The group, who formed in 1972, released 8 chart-topping albums, won the Eurovision Song Contest and extensively toured the world until their break-up in late 1982; a legacy that would spawn countless tributes to the group. Read More

ChefNews

Marcus Featured in Swedish King Magazine

By MarcusSamuelsson.com | October 16, 2012

King

Check out the six-page feature of Marcus in King Magazine, Sweden’s answer to GQ. For you non-Swedish speakers, Marcus waxes poetic on his love for New York, the recent openings of his two restaurants in Sweden, his appearance alongside Taylor Swift, Martha Stewart and Justin Bieber in the Macy’s commercial and President Obama. Read More

Newsletter

Featured Recipe

Image by Rod Waddington Dinner

By Suzannah Schneider

Injera

More Recipes

Meet the Team

About The Team

Whether it’s finding the best goat tacos in LA, spotting a well-worn vintage bag in Sweden, or interviewing the “crab man” selling seafood on a corner in Harlem, we tell stories seen from Chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s point of view. MarcusSamuelsson.com strives to create conversations about food, nutrition, culture, art, and design. We want to find Read More

Restaurants

Red Rooster Harlem
Ginny’s Supper Club
Uptown Brasserie
American Table Cafe and Bar
Kitchen and Table
American Table Brasserie and Bar
Norda
Marc Burger