A Journey Through Scandinavian Street Food
You don't instantly think of Scandinavia when someone says "street food". Your first thought might be the fabulous street food markets of south east Asia or a special burger van, but street food is unexpectedly common in Scandinavia. It's not pushed as such though, it's just accepted that you can grab a hot snack somewhere from a "gatekjøkken" or tourist cabin whilst you are out hiking.
I became a big of fan of street food some years ago when as a family we took a roadtrip across Europe (through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark and into Norway). We wanted a theme to the trip and with two small kids going through a picking eating stage it had to be fun and easy.
So we decided on "street food". It meant that there was no pressure to eat in restaurants, no expectations at mealtimes and everyone could eat small portions of things that took their fancy.
From the kids' point of view it was a huge success. They tried food they would never have considered before and actually liked it. They didn't have to commit to large meals that they may not like and we allowed them to eat whenever they were hungry not just at designated mealtimes dictated by restaurant opening hours. We all had so much fun and our passion for street food was cemented.
I think there can be an assumption that street food is junk, but some of the best food and some of the most innovative cooking comes from street food. It's food that has to be fresh and prepared quickly, that demands skill and quality ingredients, and often recipes that have been passed down for generations.
In Norway, there are certain foods that are always enjoyed on special days and at certain times of year such as rømmegrøt or kransekake. But there are the perennial favourites that you can find at every tourist cabin and street kitchen all over Norway.
I got a bit of a surprise when I was first offered a Norwegian waffle. I had been used to the rectangular, thick and fluffy Belgian waffle and the Norwegian waffle was very different. The Norwegian waffle varies slightly from the more usual Belgian waffle. It is shaped like a flower, thinner and less crispy. If you buy a waffle on the go they are usually served with strawberry jam and sour cream on top and can quite often be served cold.
Köttbullar och Potatismos (Meatballs with Mashed Potato)
The more substantial street food, but a street food in Scandinavia nonetheless. Anyone who's taken a trip to IKEA will be familiar with Swedish meatballs and at most street food stops in Sweden you can grab a few meatballs with some mashed potato, rich brown sauce and a good spoonful of lingonberry jam. Yum!
Rømmegrøt (Sour Cream Porridge)
Rømmegrøt always looks like it's going to be a light snack, but it's surprisingly filling. It's a rich, sour cream porridge frequently sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and served with thinly sliced cured leg of lamb (something similar to a lamb version of prosciutto). Rømmegrøt is an incredibly traditional snack food that has been enjoyed for hundreds of years in Norway. You will most often find it at the more traditional and historic events and if you get the chance to try it you simply must. You can't get better than a warm summer day sitting on the grass enjoying a bowl of rich, creamy rømmegrøt and some artisanal cured meats.
Pølse og Pølsehorn (Hotdogs and Sausage Rolls)
Every single street food stand in Norway sells hotdogs or pølse as they are called here. But the Norwegians like to eat them with a baffling array of toppings that I had never seen in England. Potato salad, prawn salad and coleslaw are commonplace. They also often served in a potato pancake called a "lompe". In Denmark, it's the pølsehorn. This is a delicious combination of wiener style sausage wrapped in a soft dough. They often have tomato ketchup inside too, or a smear of a spicy tomato sauce. They are always a firm favourite of my kids when we are in Denmark.
Svele (Norwegian Pancakes)
These delicious little pancakes are made from kefir (fermented milk) rather than ordinary milk and are light and fluffy. When you take a ferry in western Norway they are for sale on the journey and no summer ferry trip is complete without one. The ordinary svele then becomes a "Fergesvele" or ferry svele. What's not to love!
Boller (Sweet Cardamom Buns)
Is there even a Sunday "tur" without a boller? I think not! Boller are an all time favourite for everyone on trips out. On Sundays most service stations and small bakeries are serving boller to go and the sweet aroma of cardamom and baking greets you before you even reach the door. I like mine with chocolate chunks in them, but the more traditional go for raisins.
If you are from the USA you probably think of a lefse as a large thin pancake type food generally made with potato. But in Norway the kind of lefse that you would snack on tend to be thicker, more cake like and look something like a sandwich. The sandwich is a sweet butter usually flavoured with cinnamon. Most shops and food stops sell them in little packets and they are great for a quick pick-me-up when you want something to eat but don't need a full meal.
Maybe your next trip to Norway will include a few street-food stops at a traditional "kro" (tavern) or "gatekjøkken" (street-food stop) and you can grab a taste of how we like to snack here in Scandinavia. It's not an everyday thing, but it's a great treat when you are on the go or on the way back from a hike.
If you can't wait, then follow the links to try making your own authentic Scandinavian street food at home. Come on over to the Living a Nordic Life Facebook group and let us know what you enjoy the most and any that I haven't mentioned. We'd love to hear from you!