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Why Ukrainians Regret Attempting To Open Can Of Surströmming

Find out why Ukrainians regret attempting to open can of surströmming and more. Discover the Swedish fermented fish that's infamous for its potent smell and learn how to properly eat it, why it smells so bad, and a recipe you may want to try out!

Author:Black Crystal
Reviewer:Maxwell Canvas
Sep 05, 202325.5K Shares381.6K Views
Just four days ago, Reddit user u/iAkiraKira posted a captivating video that has since taken the internet by storm. Garnering a whopping 7.4K upvotes and 702 comments in this short period, the clip showcases a group ofUkrainians regret attempting to open can of Surströmming—Sweden's notorious fermented herring—and their priceless reactions to its odor. The surprising twist? The can wasn't even fully opened yet, but their reactions were already beyond dramatic.

Ukrainians Regret Attempting To Open Can Of Surströmming

In u/iAkiraKira's viral Reddit video, one Ukrainian guy takes the plunge, using a can opener to unlock the Surströmming can. His face immediately twists into a grimace, signaling the urge to vomit. Another curious individual steps forward to sniff the can and is met with the same gut-wrenching reaction. Their facial expressions say it all, capturing the intense aroma of Surströmming.
Ukranian guy with his face showing an urge to vomit
Ukranian guy with his face showing an urge to vomit
Following the initial two Ukrainians' grimacing encounters with the freshly opened can of Surströmming, others took turns to bravely approach and sniff the notorious Swedish delicacy.
Captured by other military Ukrainian men in uniform, filming the unfolding drama, some participants couldn't hold back their visceral reactions and ended up vomiting—quite profusely, in fact. The chain of gut-wrenching responses further fueled the video's upvote on Reddit leaving other Reddit users to give a combination of responses. Some shared a humorous comment, while some in horror, and genuine curiosity.
One Reddit user commented, "That qualifies as a biological weapon."
While the video shows the Ukranians vomiting, another one said, "Warning: Crazy amounts of vomit."
Followed by one who was wondering what the guys ate to have so much to throw up: "That's what I want to know. Did they chow down on 5 bowls of cream of wheat before filming? Wow. I've never seen that much volume leave a person in that short a period."
From such intense reactions, one has to wonder: What is it about surströmming that elicits such a visceral response?

What Does Surströmming Smell Like?

Surströmming has the reputation of being one of the world's most foul-smelling foods. A study from Japan in 2002 revealed that the dish's aroma was even more potent than other notoriously stinky foods like Korean Hongeo-hoe (fermented skate fish) and Japanese nattō (fermented soybeans).
Some people describe the smell as being a mix of rotten eggs, vinegar, and rancid butter. Yet, for those who grow up around it or acquire a taste for it, the smell can be more bearable, even appetizing in a peculiar way.
Yet the odor is just the tip of the iceberg; the fish has an intriguing history that's as fascinating as its smell is pungent.

Eviction Story Because Of Surströmming

Among the various intriguing stories about surströmming, one stands out for its legal ramifications. In 1981, a German landlord evicted a tenant for spreading surströmming brine in the apartment stairwell. The eviction was later upheld in court when the landlord's lawyers opened a can to demonstrate its potent smell.
The court stated that it "had convinced itself that the disgusting smell of the fish brinefar exceeded the degree that fellow-tenants in the building could be expected to tolerate." The case goes to show that Surströmming's notoriety isn't merely anecdotal but has been legally acknowledged.
While the aroma has had legal implications, the correct pronunciation has its own form of gravity in Swedish culture. Let's get that right first.

How To Pronounce Surströmming In Swedish?

Pronouncing "surströmming" correctly can be a bit of a tongue-twister if you're not familiar with Swedish sounds. The emphasis should be placed on the first syllable: "SUR-stru-ming".
The "ö" is pronounced somewhat like the "i" in "bird," but with rounded lips. Understanding the pronunciation not only makes you sound like a connoisseur but also elevates your surströmming experience by embracing its Swedish origins.
Now that we're saying it right, what exactly is surströmming, and how did it come to be?
Can of Surströmming
Can of Surströmming

What Is Surströmming?

While Swedish cuisine has delighted palates around the world with its meatballs, crayfish parties, and smorgasbord lunches, there's one dish that rarely travels beyond the Swedish border—Surströmming.
Surströmming is an infamous Swedish delicacy made of Baltic Sea herring that is fermented in a weak brine for at least six months. It is lightly salted in the can to prevent rot. Those who dare to try it often eat it wrapped in flatbread, accompanied by potatoes, sour cream, red onions, chives, and dill.
This infamous dish has origins steeped in both history and folklore, shedding light on its long-standing place in Swedish culture.

Surströmming's History

Surströmming has fascinating origins steeped in both culinary innovationand national folklore. While the dish's modern form is traceable to the mid-16th century during the salt shortages caused by King Gustav Vasa's Rebellion, surströmming's history might even predate that era.
There's a colorful tale about Swedish sailors who, running low on salt, sold barrels of inadequately preserved herring to Finnish locals. Upon returning later, they discovered that not only did the Finns enjoy the semi-rotted fish, but they also wanted more. This accidental discovery led to what is now considered a Swedish culinary treasure.
However, a groundbreaking study led by researcher Adam Boethius of Lund University suggests that the tradition could go back as far as 9,200 years. Excavations in southern Sweden unearthed nearly 200,000 fish bones arranged in bundles with pine bark and seal fat, then covered in wild boar skin.
This predates the use of salt, implying that the fish was fermented underground—a method sophisticated enough to challenge the previously held notion that Scandinavians of that era were merely nomadic hunters and gatherers.
With such an intricate history, it's only natural to wonder, what does this legendary dish actually taste like?

How Does Surströmming Taste?

While many dread the smell of surströmming, its taste often receives a more generous assessment. The herring used in surströmming provides a rich umami flavor, which contrasts sharply with its notorious smell.
If you can get past the olfactory hurdle, you're treated to a unique taste experience that combines savory, salty, and acidic elements. Many people find that the taste grows on them over time, becoming an acquired preference that they even start to crave.
If your curiosity is piqued and you're brave enough to try, let's look at how this unique dish is traditionally enjoyed in Sweden.

How To Eat Surströmming

In Sweden, enjoying surströmming is often a social activity, traditionally part of a late summer feast called a "surströmmingsskiva." The dish is customarily consumed with "tunnbröd," a type of flat, soft bread.
A variety of condiments are typically offered, including finely chopped onions, chives, and sour cream. These toppings are said to balance the strong flavors of the fish. To wash it down, cold beers and shots of aquavit are often served, providing both liquid courage and complementary flavors.
Before you embark on this culinary adventure, you should know how to safely open a can of this potent dish.

How To Open A Can Of Surströmming

Opening a can of surströmming is not for the faint of heart. The can is often swollen due to the ongoing fermentation process, turning it into a pressurized container. It's highly recommended to open the can outdoors while it's submerged in a bucket of water.
This method helps to contain the pungent liquid and minimize the explosion risk. Even with these precautions, it's advisable to keep a safe distance and protect your clothing from potential splatters.
With the can safely opened, you might wonder, is this potent dish actually safe to consume?

Is Surströmming Safe To Eat?

Consuming surströmming is generally safe, assuming you follow some basic precautions. First, make sure the can is not past its expiration date, which is usually printed on the bottom.
The fermentation process itself serves as a form of preservation, killing off harmful bacteria. However, if the can is leaking or shows signs of damage, it's better to err on the side of caution and not consume its contents.
For those who've checked the safety precautions off the list, here's how you can prepare your very own traditional surströmming meal.
Traditional Surströmming Meal
Traditional Surströmming Meal

How To Prepare A Traditional Surströmming Meal

Here's a recipe you might find useful for a traditional surströmming feast:
  • 1 Can of Surströmming
  • 1 Packet of Tunnbröd (soft, thin bread)
  • Potatoes (preferably new)
  • 1-2 Red Onions
  • 1 Bunch of Chives
  • 1 Bunch of Dill
  • Sour Cream
  • Aquavit

How To Enjoy Surströmming: A Step-by-Step Guide

Before diving into your surströmming experience, make sure you have all the ingredients and supplies ready for the traditional ensemble. Here's a quick guide on how to enjoy this Swedish delicacy:
  • Open the Surströmming Can -Submerge the can in a bucket of water and carefully open it to contain the smell.
  • Prepare the Fish -Remove the fish from the can, drain and rinse them, and then gut them carefully.
  • Cook the Potatoes -Boil the potatoes in salted water until they're tender. For added flavor, consider adding some dill stems to the boiling water.
  • Chop the Toppings - Finely dice the red onions and chives. Slice the potatoes.
  • Assemble the Sandwich - Lay a piece of tunnbröd flat and layer it with slices of potato, fish, onion, chives, and dill. Add some dots of sour cream.
  • Season and Serve -Finish your surströmming ensemble with a grind of fresh pepper and enjoy it, perhaps with a shot of Swedish schnapps or aquavit to complete the experience.
By following these steps, you'll not only enjoy surströmming but also appreciate the cultural nuances that make it a cherished Swedish dish.

Surströmming Frequently Asked Questions

How Is Surströmming Meant To Be Eaten?

Open the pressurized tin in a water basin. After washing and gutting the fish, wrap it in buttered 'tunnbröd' along with almond potato slices and diced onion. Enjoy it with beer, snaps, and friends.

Can You Eat Surströmming Out Of The Can?

Eating surströmming directly out of the can is not recommended, especially for first-timers. The overpowering smell can be intimidating and may lead to a less than enjoyable experience.

Why Does Surströmming Smell So Bad?

The smell comes from the fermentation process. Enzymes and bacteria generate various acids like propionic acid, butyric acid, and acetic acid. The most pungent component is hydrogen sulfide, which is also responsible for the smell of rotten eggs.

What Do You Use Surströmming For?

Surströmming is typically consumed with 'tunnbröd,' a type of thin bread. You can either roll the fish in soft tunnbröd or use hard tunnbröd to create a sandwich or an open-faced sandwich.

Is Fermented Fish Safe To Eat?

Yes, fermented fish, including surströmming, is generally safe to eat. It contains high levels of beneficial nutrients such as EPA, DHA, and antioxidants.

How Long Does It Take For Surströmming To Ferment?

The fermentation process lasts for at least six months. This period allows the fish to develop its distinct strong odor and somewhat acidic flavor.

Does Surströmming Need To Be Refrigerated?

Always keep surströmming refrigerated, even when the tin is unopened. Make sure to open it outside or in a well-ventilated area.


In the world of culinary adventures, surströmming stands as a challenge that even the bravest often hesitate to undertake. Originating from Sweden, this fermented herring dish has gained international notoriety, not for its taste, but for its overpowering smell. While it may be a cherished tradition in Sweden, complete with its own rituals involving tunnbröd, almond potatoes, and aquavit, surströmming remains an acquired taste—or perhaps more accurately, an acquired smell—that many find difficult to embrace.
The aroma of surströmming has even been analyzed scientifically, revealing a combination of acids and hydrogen sulfide that contribute to its foul odor. It's so pungent that in a legal case, a German landlord successfully evicted a tenant for spreading surströmming brine in an apartment stairwell.
The fermented fish has also been the subject of countless social media experiments, most notably a recent viral Reddit video where Ukrainians regret attempting to open can of surströmming. The video garnered thousands of upvotes and hundreds of comments, showcasing the fish's ability to evoke strong, often gut-wrenching, reactions.
Whether you view surströmming as a biological weapon or a Swedish culinary treasure, its impact is undeniably profound.
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Black Crystal

Black Crystal

Black Crystal is a captivating writer who finds inspiration in the quiet corners of the street and the mysterious depths beneath bridges. With a penchant for the night, she crafts enchanting tales that explore the uncharted realms of the human experience. Embracing the darkness as her muse, Black Crystal's evocative prose and haunting imagery transport readers into a world where secrets whisper and dreams take shape. Her writing defies categorization, inviting readers to uncover the magic hidden within the shadows and embrace the enigmatic beauty of her nocturnal narratives. Step into her realm, where the written word dances with ethereal grace, and immerse yourself in the captivating stories she weaves.
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