What's a Smörgås?

by Benjamin Foster, Chef at K-bröd
April 11, 2020


Some background on Swedish open-face sandwiches (smörgås), new Nordic approaches.


 Smörgås with raw tuna and Norwegian fresh cheese on Swedish crispbread.




My sister recently asked me to do some of the reception food at her wedding. I was honored. I suggested we could do some little open face sandwiches? She said, “Canapés?” “Smörgås,” I said.

History of smörgås

This small miscommunication between my sister and me reflects the conditions in which the smörgås originated. Smörgås as we know it today comes from the early Christian period in Sweden (11th century). Contacts between the Swedish and French courts resulted in a slavish imitation of French cuisine in Sweden, and the popularity of open face sandwiches among the aristocratic class was born. French ingredients were unavailable, so Swedish chefs would substitute local ones. In this way, smörgås became populated with fresh or hard cheese, cured, pickled, or fermented fish, red onion, cucumber, and dill.

Our smörgås box

As a Swedish-American chef based in LA, I find myself in a similar predicament in some ways to these early Swedish chefs. Atlantic herring is difficult to come by; Baltic herring is nonexistent. However, I am lucky to find myself on the coastline, and tuna, salmon, and smelts are plentiful at local markets. My smörgås by necessity reflect my local environment, while my methods engage French and Swedish cooking techniques. Balancing Nordic flavors with local ingredients forms the dance of Swedish-American cooking.

My sister Jane and her fiancé Joey enjoying smörgås.

 My sister Jane and her fiancé Joey enjoying smörgås.

At K-bröd, our smörgås box reflects a variety of picklings and ferments that we have in stock, along with fresh herbs grown in house. For meat proteins, expect a variety of cured, pickled, fermented or smoked fishes, including herring, tuna, and salmon, or pickled sausages. For dairies, house made fresh or hard cheese and cultured butter will likely find their way into a box. Pickled vegetables include cucumber, red onion, and red potato. For herbs, fresh-cut mint or dill is included. Likely expect a cup of lingonberry jam. Finally, every box comes with 3.5 pieces of our handmade knäckebröd (crispbread). This yeasty, hardy crack bread brings together the tangy flavors of pickled and fermented vegetables, meats, and dairies to form the Nordic flavor of smörgås.

Welcome to K-bröd!