Japan is no stranger to fermented foods with, shall we say, “unique” aromas, so how would a group of unsuspecting Japanese writers deal with a rice bowl topped with the notoriously foul-smelling Swedish staple, surströmming?
Japan’s fermented soybean snack natto is fairly well-known for its health benefits and pungent odor, and we even have a similar stinky borderline rotten fish dish known as kusaya. So our Japanese reporters were feeling rather bold when faced with Sweden’s offering.
However, unbeknownst to them surströmming is Baltic Sea herring cured with a minimum amount of salt for about half a year to bring it to that razor-thin line between “fermented” and “rotten.” To put it in perspective, a 2002 study found that surströmming was 17 times as pungent as natto or kusaya.
First up was our plucky young writer Seiji Nakazawa who claimed that; “Natto doesn’t even smell bad. Durian is a luxurious fruit and kusaya is downright delicious. If surströmming is a Swedish delicacy then surely it has some redeeming qualities. I’m a big boy and can handle a little smell.”
Fellow writers P.K. Sanjun and Mr. Sato prepared surströmming gohan (surströmming on rice) for Seiji by first rinsing off the canned surströmming with water.
The can itself had previously been opened at a remote location because its initial odor would have corrupted the entire RocketNews24 office beyond repair.
Finally the fish was gently placed on a bed of precooked rice. As the food was presented, Seiji’s face began to twitch at the aroma, but he tried to keep his composure since he had already run his mouth off.
Then he cut off a morsel and put it in his mouth.
▼ “… Ach Gah no!!”
Hatori, whom we can see seated beside Seiji in these photos, just sat and laughed. Afterward, he tried a piece for himself, but it only made it about an inch from his lips before it was repelled as if an invisible force-field of stink prevented it from entering.
One by one, the other members of staff came by to try—or attempt to try—some surströmming. Yuichiro Wasai couldn’t eat it and even spent a lot of the time protecting his body as if the smell were about to manifest itself and begin punching him.
Reader favorite Meg came close to eating it, but also ultimately refused to put the surströmming in her mouth, saying that it reminded her of a toilet she encountered once in China.
P.K. Sanjun managed to get it in his mouth, but spat it out soon after.
Mr. Sato just sat cackling maniacally at it all. As, being a part of the surströmming gohan preparation team, he was allowed to sit this one out. Having been the subject of various food-themed tortures in the past it was his turn to enjoy the show for once.
The only member of the RocketNews24 team who was able to stomach the surströmming was Shinomiya. It wasn’t easy though.
Despite, Shinomiya’s valiant effort to down Sweden’s smelly seafood, it was fair to say that surströmming truly was the most daunting of fermented food far out-classing anything Japan had to offer in terms of offensive odors. It seemed our team was caught off guard by the fact that Japanese foods like natto and kusaya smell bad but actually taste quite different. On the other hand surströmming was disagreeable to all senses across the board.
We’ll leave you with some video documentation of our experience with surströmming so you can see everyone’s reaction as it happens. Please enjoy it, because we sure as hell are not going to try this again.
Original article by P.K. Sanjun
Photos & Video © RocketNews24
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