I moved to Sweden as a student, and as an international student sampling traditional food is a must. I was beyond excited when on my first winter I received an invitation to attend Julbord at Ikea. A Julbord is a buffet that offers traditional Swedish Christmas foods. Many restaurants offer this option during the Christmas period and the Ikea restaurant is no less in this. The Ikea restaurant is actually the most affordable and student-friendly of options.
On my first Julbord experience I participated as university blogger. The university invited all their digital abassadors to give us a taste of this Swedish Christmas tradition. It was the academic year 2014-15 and I was one of the student bloggers (my blog from that time can be reached here). Even after my journey as a student ended, I still remained in the university blogging environment and this academic year I started coordinating this year’s university bloggers, who collectively blog on one single space, Student Bloggers DU. It has become a tradition for me to gather with my fellow bloggers from the University on a December afternoon to sample some foods from the Julbord at Ikea.
Julbord at Ikea: the food
Among the foods featured in the Ikea Julbord there are cold and hot dishes. The cold selection features deviled eggs with shrimp salad, hot- and cold-smoked salmon, Baltic herring in various sauces, roastbeef, sausages and beet salad. Among the warm foods there is the Christmas ham (it can be also be found sliced, cold), meatballs and small sausages. Side dishes include boiled and mashed potatoes and an interesting potato and anchovy bake called Janssons Frestelse (literally, Jansson’s temptation).
Since I knew most of the foods from my previous experience, I only went with a selection of cold favourites and dessert. My blogging friends who were tasting Swedish Christmas food for the first time sampled a little bit of everything. I took advantage of this situation and took photos of all our plates.
The Swedish Christmas dessert
I have been writing on this blog about some traditional December sweet delicacies of the Swedish cuisine, but of course Sweden’s traditional Christmas desserts don’t stop at gingerbread thins and saffron buns. There is much more to that and, surprisingly, neither of those two is the true Christmas dessert. Saffron buns are mostly an Advent food linked to St Lucy’s day (December 13th), while pepparkakor are served all over the holiday period, not being something eaten exclusively at the Christmas table. So what is the traditional Christmas dessert in Sweden? As a matter of fact, it’s “Ris à la Malta”.
Ris à la Malta is a sort of rice pudding and despite its name it has nothing to do with Malta, the country. The name actually is the corruption of the Danish name of the same dessert, risalamande. Those who understand French will guess there is rice and almonds involved. Ris à la Malta is a rice pudding that sometimes may feature an almond hidde in it. The lucky guest who finds the nut in their portion of rice pudding is said to find love (and even get married!) over the next year.
Ris à la Malta is made with risgrynsgröt, a very simple rice porridge usually dusted with cinnamon that is the Swedish counterpart of the cookie and milk people leave out for Santa to take on Christmas night. Swedish families will leave a portion of rice porridge for the Christmas Elf, and leftovers of that porridge can be turned into ris à la Malta when adding whipped cream and berry jam. Voilà, Christmas dessert is served, Swedish style.