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SURSTRÖMMING

WATCH: Spaniards try Swedish fermented herring, with hilarious results

If there is one thing that never gets old it's watching foreigners tackle Sweden's fermented herring delicacy surströmming. Now it's Spain's turn, after one of the country's most popular TV programmes asked a few locals to test the smelly fish for the first time.

WATCH: Spaniards try Swedish fermented herring, with hilarious results
Surströmming served the traditional way. Photo: Susanne Lindholm/TT

“El Hormiguero” (The Anthill) has been a stalwart of Spanish screens since 2006, forging a reputation for its experimental and scientific segments. This week, things took a Scandinavian twist as a group of lucky contestants were given the chance to taste surströmming: herring plucked out of the Baltic Sea then subjected to an ancient preservation method where it's stored for months to stew in its own bacteria.

“To carry out the filming, the production staff wore masks to eliminate the smell,” the narrator advises rather dramatically at the start of the video, setting the tone.

“Do you like fish?” he asks. “Yes, yes! Always, more than meat,” a participant replies enthusiastically.

His enthusiasm soon wanes however: as the cans are opened and the liquid inside sprays out it is met with cries of “It smells so bad!”, “Uff… what is this?!” and “Awful. You're sure this isn't out of date? Absolutely certain?”

And when the juices spray the face of the woman sitting next to him, another participant says something we absolutely can't translate into English (in Spain they're a bit more liberal when it comes to swearing). Keep in mind the Spaniards haven't even tasted the stuff yet.

READ MORE: Ten delicious Spanish delicacies to try before you die

One contestant, Diego, puts a brave face on it, taking a bite as a woman watches on in horror then deliberates for several minutes over whether she will do the same.

“I can't, I'm really sorry…”

“Yes I can.”

“I can't get close to it, I'm sorry.”

“A tiny bit, I'm going to try… Come on then! Give it some balls!”

After waving the fish back and forth in front of her mouth pitifully, the woman then finally takes a bite, only for her body to reject it, to say the least. Cue montage.

“Of the eight contestants, six were sick,” a caption card explains. “Along with part of the production team,” it adds, noting that even the office dog turned the fish down.

READ ALSO: What you need to know before trying Swedish fermented herring

When El Hormiguero asked a Swede to do it, his reaction was quite different.

“Lucky! There's caviar in here!” the Swede beams in delight while putting the smelly fish in his mouth before chewing it and adding “brilliant”.

Ruben Madsen, the foremost expert on the food and self-proclaimed 'Surströmming king' was not impressed with Spanish TV's take on the local treasure.

“I watched the video and they're doing everything wrong: the cultural illiteracy is evident! Unfortunately,” Madsen told The Local.

“Surströmming should be served like the delicacy it is. The can should be cold and not stored in the heat, it should be opened correctly and with the right tools. It shouldn't be eaten whole, but filleted. It should be eaten with various accompaniments like potato, onion, crème fraîche, tomato, and also bread, cheese and dill,” he explained.

“I've served surströmming thousands of times in Sweden, Finland, Norway, England, Denmark, Japan, Russia, Greenland and Iceland, and it has always been praised or received positively,” Madsen concluded.

The surströmming proponent would likely be just as unimpressed with The Local Sweden team, who ate the fish straight from the can last summer, filming the experience for posterity.

READ ALSO: Swedish agencies hit with stinky fermented herring attack

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FOOD & DRINK

Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

The Local's Esme Fox, a long-term Barcelona resident, shares some of her favourite city bars that serve free tapas when you buy a drink.

Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

Spain is of course celebrated for its tapas, small plates of food, designed for sharing and consisting of favourites such as patatas bravas (fried potatoes topped with spicy sauce), pimientos de padrón (fried green peppers) and croquetas (croquettes of different varieties such as ham or mushrooms). 

One theory is that tapas were invented in order to cover your wine or beer glass, so that flies and other bugs wouldn’t fly in. The barman would give customers a piece of bread topped with jamón (ham) or queso (cheese) in order to act as a lid or in Spanish ‘tapa’, hence the name tapas.

Although most cities in Spain no longer serve free tapas when you buy a drink, there are still some cities where you are guaranteed a free snack. This is still true in the southern cities of Granada, Almería and Jaén, in León and Segovia, as well as a few others dotted around the country.

Despite this, you can still find the odd bar serving the old-fashioned free tapa in some of Spain’s largest and most expensive cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.

So, next time you’re in the Catalan capital, save some money by visiting one of these bars, where you’ll still get served a free tapa along with your drink.  

READ ALSO: Top ten Madrid bars serving free tapas, one for each barrio

Keep in mind, you won’t be served a free drink if you just order a coffee and sometimes not with a soft drink either, it’s usually when you buy a glass of beer or wine.

Ca’l Chusco

This small traditional bar in the old fisherman’s neighbourhood of Barceloneta offers one free tapa every time you order a drink. It’s usually something small and simple, but if you’re still hungry then you can always order one of their delicious paellas or plates or seafood too. 

Raspall
This cute and contemporary little tapas joint, situated on the edge of Gracia, is so popular that it often gets very crowded, so get here early if you want a spot at the bar. It costs around €2-4 for a drink and a small tapas dish, which you can choose from a large selection. There’s everything from croquetas and hummus to small sausages.

Pappa e Citti

It’s not just authentic Spanish bars offering free tapas in Barcleona, at traditional Sardinian restaurant Pappa e Citti in the barrio of Gracia, they offer it too. Be aware that free tapas with your drink is only served between 6-9pm. Small tapas offerings may have an Italian twist or maybe something simple like a piece of bread topped with cream cheese and caramelised onions.

La Xula Taperia

In the heart of the Gracia neighbourhood, this modern and stylish bar offers the closest thing to a Granadino-style free plate of tapas. Rather than just a small piece of bread topped with an ingredient, their free offerings include meatballs, anchovies or even ensaladilla rusa (Russian potato salad).

Casa Arana

Located in the heart of the Sant Andreu neighbourhood, not far from the metro stop of the same name, Casa Arana is a small local barrio bar. As well as the regular drinks on offer, they make their own beer in either tostada (toasted) or rubia (pale) varieties, which is served in a tall glass and looks like an ice cream sundae. The free tapa served with your drink is typically a piece of baguette topped with a simple ingredient such as jamón, chistorra (cured sausage) or cheese.

Cassette Bar

This tapas and cocktail bar located in the heart of Raval has a decidedly 80s themed vibe and name to match. They have been serving free tapas for the past 14 years – something typical like piece of bread and tomato topped with a slice of tortilla (Spanish omelette).

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