Swedish cuisine is mostly hearty meat or fish with potatoes, derived from the days when men needed to chop wood all day long. Besides the ubiquitous potatoes, modern Swedish cuisine is to a great extent based on bread. Traditional everyday dishes are called husmanskost (pronounced whos-mans-cost). They include:
-Meatballs (köttbullar), the internationally most famous Swedish dish. Served with potatoes, brown sauce and lingonberry jam.
-Hash (pytt i panna) consisting of meat, onions and potatoes, all diced and fried. Sliced beetroots and a fried or boiled whole eggs are mandatory accessories.
-Pea soup (ärtsoppa) with diced pork, followed by thin pancakes afterwards. Traditionally eaten on Thursdays since medieval times when the servants had half the day off as it is an easy meal to prepare. All lunch restaurants in Sweden with any self-respect serves pea soup and pancakes every Thursday.
-Pickled herring (sill), available in various types of sauces. Commonly eaten with bread or potatoes for summer lunch or as a starter. Virtually mandatory at midsummer and very common for Christmas.
-Blodpudding, a black sausage made by pig's blood and flour. Slice it, fry it and eat it with lingonberry jam.
-Gravlax, a widely known and appreciated cold appetizer made by thin slices of salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill.
-Falukorv, a big baloney from Falun. Sliced, fried and eaten with ketchup and mashed potatoes.
-Sweden has more varieties of bread than most other countries. Many of them are whole-grain or mixed grain, containing wheat, barley, oats, compact and rich in fiber. Some notable examples are tunnbröd (thin wrap bread), knäckebröd (hard bread - might not be an interesting experience, but is nearly always available), and different kinds of seasoned loaves. Bread is mostly eaten as simple sandwiches, with thin slices of cheese or cold cuts. Some more exotic spreads are messmör (whey butter) and leverpastej (liver paté).
-Tunnbrödrulle, a fast food dish, consisting of a bread wrap with mashed potatoes, a hot dog and some vegetables.
-Kroppkakor Potato dumpling stuffed with diced pork.
Ost Hard cheese. Swedes eat a lot of hard cheese. In an ordinary food market you can often find 10 to 20 different types of cheese. The most famous Swedish hard cheese would be Västerbotten, named after a region in Sweden.
Other Swedish favorites:
-Soft whey butter (messmör), breadspread with a sweetish, hard-to-describe taste.
-Caviar, not the expensive Russian or Iranian kind but a cheaper version made from cod roe, sold in tubes and used on sandwiches. The most famous brand is Kalles Kaviar.
-Julmust, stout-like Christmas soft drink that every year annoys The Coca-Cola Company in Sweden by lowering Coke's sales figures by 50%.
-Crayfish (kräftor), hugely popular around August, when Swedes feast on them at big crayfish parties (kräftskivor). Silly paper hats and lots of alcohol included.
-Semla, a cream-filled pastry eaten around Fat Tuesday.
Rabarberkräm/Rabarberpaj rhubarbcream or rhubarbpie with vanilla sauce ( other cakes or pies on fresh blueberries, apples, or just strawberries with cream or ice cream are also very popular in the summer)
-Spettekaka A local cake from Skåne in south Sweden, made of eggs, sugar, and potato starch.
-Smörgåstårta A cold Sandwich layer cake, often with salmon, eggs, and shrimps. (Also often with tuna or roast beef) Swedish people often eat it at New Year's Eve, or birthdays and parties.
-Lösgodis" candy from boxes that you mix on your own, sold by weight, is one the most popular candy among this candyloving nation. A choice of chocolate, sours, sweet and salt liqorice are always offered.
-Swedish cookies and pastries like bondkakor, hallongrottor, bullar or cakes like prinsesstårta are widely popular. It used to be tradition to offer guest 7 different cookies when invited over for coffee. If you have a sweet tooth you should try chokladbollar, mazariner, biskvier, rulltårta, lussebullar, the list goes on...
As in most of Europe, inexpensive pizza and kebab restaurants are ubiquitous in Swedish cities, and are also to be found in almost every small village. Note that the Swedish pizza is significantly different from Italian or American pizzas, American pizzas are usually sold as "pan pizza". Sushi and Thai food are also quite popular. The local hamburger chain Max is recommended before McDonald's and Burger King, for tasteful Scandinavian furnishing, clean restrooms, no trans fats and free coffee with meals. In parts of Norrland it is customary to eat hamburgers with fork and knife - available at Max. Another type of fast food establishment is the gatukök ("street kitchen"), serving hamburgers, hot dogs, kebab and tunnbrödrulle (se above).
Highway diners, vägkrogar, have generous meals, but might be of poor quality, greasy and overpriced. If you have time, a downtown restaurant is preferable. Gas stations offer decent packed salads and sandwiches.
You can get a "cheap" lunch if you look for the signs with "Dagens rätt" (meal of the day). This normally costs about 50-120 SEK (€5,50-€13,30) and almost everywhere includes a bottle of water; soft drink; or light beer, bread & butter, some salad and coffee afterwards. Dagens rätt is served Monday to Friday.
The world famous furniture retailer IKEA has stores at the outskirts of 15 Swedish cities. These have great diners, which offer well-cooked Swedish meals for as little as 40 SEK, and the store exit usually has a café selling hot dogs for as little as 5 SEK. (They hope that you spend some money on shopping too.) Great if you happen to pass by. Expect crowds at rainy weather.
If you're on a tight budget, self-catering is the safest way to save your money.
Vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are accepted in cities, less common in the countryside but you should be able to find a falafel in every smaller town.