4.227 Köttbullar med Lingonsylt

The first time in the blog's history that a person has been shown in the feature photo; while the pairing of this particular person + this particular dish was significant, I'd also failed to get an in-focus shot of just the food.
-Cycle 4, Item 227-
20 (Tue) August 2013

Köttbullar med Lingonsylt


by me

at home

-Oksu, Seoul-

with Gustaf K ... and later MtG, Noh SJ, Lee HS

An actual Swede, in my home, eating Swedish meatballs, that I'd prepared for him, with lingonberry jam, that he'd brought for me, from Sweden.  How cool is that?

Ever since my first attempt at making the dish (see 3.291 Swedish Meatballs), it just didn't feel complete without the jam.  All meatball recipes that I've seen, as well as recipes for other Swedish dishes (see for example 3.330 P31bO/Sweden(30): Kåldolmar...), end with the directive "Serve with lingonberry jam," as if Swedes only and always eat this one condiment at every meal.  Gustaf confirmed that lingonberry jam--lingonsylt--is indeed the traditional condiment for certain iconic dishes, like the ones that I've been making, though it's not an absolute requirement on a daily basis.  Meatballs--köttbullar--are so commonplace that they're often eaten with whatever's available (e.g., ketchup) or nothing at all.  Still, I had to get some.

With the King's seal--named Gustaf, of course--this is one of the more respected brands; "rårörda" = "preserve," so it's chunkier with whole berries.

Acquisition was no easy feat.  I searched for the stuff throughout Seoul--foreign markets in Hannam and Itaewon, boutique supermarkets at Galleria and SSG, specialty delis at the hotels Hyatt and Marriott, even Austrian Chef Meili's Deli upon the suggestion of one reader--but to no avail.  Number One Fan Lisa promised to bring me a jar from Ikea in the States but didn't.  At long last, Number One Swedish Fan Gustaf came through.  Now that I think about it, this is the way that it had to be.

The mise en place, anxiously awaiting Gustaf's arrival for completion.

So, on this second meeting of ours (see previously 4.223 OKRKL (8) Yeolcha Jib...), I invited him over for dinner.  Köttbullar med Lingonsylt.  More than a show of thanks, I had to take advantage of this possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a Swede's assessment on my Swedish meatballs.   As I've been following an amalgamation of recipes found on American websites, I wanted to know whether my rendition could be considered the real deal.  Secondarily, whether they're any good.

Not knowing how the jam figured into the plating, I scooped a couple meatballs onto a dish and handed him the jar of lingonsylt with a teaspoon.

Initially, I'd provided just a fork, but he insisted on a knife as well, looking somewhat confused, like how someone would react if given a single chopstick; watching Europeans eat, I've noticed that they rely on the knife as a spatula to move things around on the plate and gather them together towards the fork, in addition to slicing.

Yes and sort of.  He acknowledged that the meatballs, including the cream sauce, constituted bona fide köttbullar.  In terms of taste, however, he found them to be on the bland side.  They seemed properly seasoned to me.  Of course, standards of saltiness are not universal, as I recently discussed (see 4.216 Personal Pan Pizzas...).  Then again, when Gustaf tried a second batch later on, which had been cooked in the sauce for a bit longer, he said that the seasoning was just right.  Of course, Gustaf's gustatory senses may be capricious, as he recently demonstrated (see 4.223 above).  In any case, seasoning aside, I've received official validation on authenticity, and that's what counts.

As for the jam, it took me by surprise.  Frankly, I'd been prepared not to like it, as I tend not to like jam in general.  I don't like sweet foods.  Fruit is sweet.  Jam is sweeter.  Moreover, I couldn't possibly imagine how something so sweet would pair with such a creamy/savory dish like köttbullar.  The closest precedent that came to mind was turkey + gravy + cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, American-style, the one part of the meal that I've never appreciated.  And yet, somehow, the combination does work.  The jam itself is not simply sweet but quite tangy, punchy, almost like it's fermented.  That kick provided a cutting counterpoint to the soft succulent meatballs and the rich creaminess of the sauce.  I'm wondering now if the cranberry sauce tradition was perhaps a contribution from the wave of Swedish immigrants to the American heartland during the late 1800s--I mean, were the Pilgrims at Plymouth eating cranberry sauce back in the day?  Anyway, I really enjoyed it.

The 4.0 here reflects the overall context, rather than the meal itself, which may not have been so perfect.

Phase 2
[photo courtesy of Gustaf]

In Korean drinking culture, the term "cha (차)" refers to a "phase" in a drawn-out night of libation.  For example, il-cha (일차) (phase 1) would usually comprise dinner, i-cha (이차) (phase 2) drinks at a bar/pub, sam-cha (삼차) (phase 3) karaoke, sa-cha (사차) (phase 4) street-side tent bar, and o-cha (오차) (phase 5), if it ever got that far, for men, probably involving women of a certain profession (this might occur earlier at phase 3).

Phase 3

This night, maybe for the first time ever, certainly for the first time in recent memory, I got as far as 6 phases: (1) at home, with Gustaf, a symbolic tasting of köttbullar med lingonsylt + beer; (2) Sin Maegju Changgo (see generally 3.251 Deep-Fried Smoked Chicken), with Gustaf and MtG, more köttbullar med lingonsylt + beer + bourbon; (3) tent bar, for Gustaf to get a taste of Oksu-style street food (see for example 3.134 Sundae in Ddeokbokki Sauce); (4) Odeng & Sake (see generally 3.319 P31bO/Japan(19): Oden), with Gustaf + Lee HS + MtG+ MtG's wife Noh SJ, odeng + odolbbyeo + mackerel + sochu + beer; (5) 24-hr sundae restaurant, with Gustaf + Lee HS, sundae + bossam + soju; and (6) tent bar, with Gustaf + Lee HS, gyeran mari + nakji bokkeum + soju + beer.  I got home at 05:30.  I remember being at each of the venues, but I can't anything that we talked about, from the 4th phase and on, retroactive blackout.  And no, professional women weren't involved at any point (unless, unbeknownst to me, Gustaf went solo to Phase 7).  I'm definitely too old for this kinda thing (Gustaf's still in his 20s).

Phase 4
[photo courtesy of Gustaf]

Phase 5

Phase 6
[photo courtesy of Gustaf]


  1. 6cha? are you serious? aren't you, like 40? doesn't that put you in a different generation than gustaf? WTF are you thinking????

    @gustaf, if you're ever in LA, let me know - we can do 6cha. i'm still waaaaay in my 30s and can totally hang.

  2. btw i hope you like those meatballs bc i bought you 3 jars of lingonberry preserves from eeKEHah.

  3. i am not "like 40," i'm actually "40 and 3/4." MtG and I had to point out that we'd first met before gustaf had even been born (1986).

    if by "2 years left" u mean "waaaay" in your 30s, i guess.

    as for the rårörda lingon, thanks, but if they don't have king gustaf's seal, then don't bother....

  4. ingrate. fine i will leave them at home.

  5. wait you brought your own anju to 2cha???

  6. no, no, no, you're right, i should be more thankful, even for eeKEHah brand. and 3 jars! i'll take them, thank u very much. besides, what would u do with them? too bad that u won't be here when u come, because i could've made u a batch of my internationally acclaimed köttbullar, which we could've tasted with the jam.

    and yes, those kinds of beer bars allow customers to bring in their own food. the only thing that our place doesn't allow is chinese delivery, because they say it stinks up the place--you know, interferes with the cigarette smoke.

  7. I just looked up the actual meaning of "rårörda lingon" (on Wikipedia of course). According to the article, rårörda lingon is made by mixing sugar with lingonberries. It is different from normal lingonsylt (lingonberry jam) in the respect that the berries aren't cooked.

    We were talking about factory made köttbullar and how a lot of people in Sweden probably never have cooked köttbullar from scratch. This picture given an example how some people would eat köttbullar: factory made, with instant pasta and ketchup (and I guess whoever took the photo also enjoy köttbullar with cheese...).

    Regarding the taste of your köttbullar, I think the fact that the first batch was slightly undercooked might have caused me to feel them being slightly bland...

    And regarding what we talked about, I can at least tell you that you told me NOT to wear t-shirts with logos/pictures from movies I don't know anything about (in this case, Gremlins).

    And btw, I'm surprised I managed to drink and eat as much as I did that evening, and still not feel that bad the day after (caused by the blessing of being under 30? ;) )

    @Lisa: I would love to hang if I'm ever in LA!

  8. Btw I just looked at that North Korean cookbook I bought in Pyongyang... It's really really weird.. no of it looks like anything I've ever seen before in Korea, neither in South nor North... The dishes and arrangements have problably never been served in a normal North Korea house, maybe never anywhere in North Korea (some of the pictures looks kinda fake...). The ingredients are really ridiculous as well. Several dishes require LOBSTER. Maybe I'm ignorant, but isn't lobster really expensive in Korea, as it is in most other parts of the world?

  9. 1) in english, my understanding is that "preserves" is a general term for any canned/jarred fruit/veg, cooked/uncooked, usually with sugar, while "jam" is more specific in that the fruit is mashed and includes juice to make it more smooth. in my experience, buying something labeled "preserves" tends to be chunky. the one that you bought me, i'd consider a preserve in that second sense.

    2) picture? link?

    3) wait, i wouldn't say that my first batch was "undercooked," but they weren't cooked as long as the second, which came out firmer and more concentrated in flavor.

    4) it's a goddamn MOGWAI!!!! NOT a gremlin until it's fed after midnight. SEE?!?! this is what i was talking about. it's the difference between, say, a human and a zombie--they're totally not the same.

    5) at the DPRK restaurant in beijing, the menu was exactly the same way: all lobster and racks of lamb and ridiculous things that koreans generally don't eat, especially not cooked at home, certainly not in DPRK i'm sure. but when i asked the waitress about the items, she said that they had sold out of the ingredients because they're so popular. and we were instructed to order from the back of the menu, when they had stuff like bibimbap, MNM etc. all propoganda.

    6) that's too bad about the book. but i would still love to get at least a couple of the recipes, to make just for fun. see what's reasonably doable, or maybe totally ridiculous would be better, and send me a scan or something.

    7) u want me to send u a copy of that northern-style cookbook that i mentioned, the one just published by the korean hansik foundation? i'm going to order one when i can remember to. or u wanna wait until the english version next year?

  10. 2) Ooops forgot the link:

    3) ok "undercooked" might be a bit harsh, rather "could have been cooked longer for better enjoyment" :)

    4) But the name of the MOVIE is still "Gremlins", right?

    6) I will have another look at the book and pick some "doable" and some ridiculous recipe.. .Or maybe I should scan the content pages and let you pick some recipes? This book contains a whopping 596 recipes, so a lot to choose from.... Wait, I will do both: scan the content page plus also scan some pages with some especially ridiculous recipes and photos... I will probably get it done by the end of the day!

    7) I would love to get my hands on that northern-style cookbook, even if it's in Korean. It would be a good way to continue improving on my Korean!

  11. Can I get a copy of the scan too?

  12. 2) ketchup, sorry, but that doesn't sound so great, even if it's what actual swedes do regularly. then again, if i had a pack of ready-made meatballs, i guess i might be tempted to dip them in ketchup if i had nothing else. on a positive note, i'm glad to see macaroni as an acceptable accompaniment. i've been thinking that my cream sauce would be great with pasta, but didn't know what shape. ian loves mac.

    3) yes, i'll take that.

    4) yes, ok, touché. but during our prior conversation, you point at the character on the shirt and called it a "gremlin."

    6/7) good, we can do a northern-style korean recipe/cookbook swap. can't wait to see the results. by the way, do they have swedish cookbooks in english?

  13. funny that lisa is using her personal address. u want to avoid involving your law firm in an international copyright piracy dispute with DPKR?

  14. 4) Hmm that's true.....

    6/7) Yeah, there seems to be at least a couple of them out there. Here's one:
    You want me to get it for you and send it to you?

  15. Btw, the first night we met I mentioned how I was less than impressed by the age of the so called "old" restaurants listed in your book, and told you we had several places in Sweden from at least the end of the 19th century, and even further back... Here's one of the places:

    Den Gyldene Freden = The Golden Peace (in a really old spelling)

    It was founded in 1722 (before America :) ) and is one of the few restaurants in Sweden that could rightly be labelled as "famous", a place famous authors, musicians and poets have been hanging out for hundreds of years. If you're ever in Stockholm, you/we should def. go there. I have actually never been...

  16. 6/7) i would absolutely love to get a swedish cookbook from sweden, especially from my Number One Swedish Fan, even if i could get it myself via as you can tell, i really appreciate things with symbolic significance. so, yes, please and thank you!! anything would be great, as long as you think the recipes are reliable.

    BTW, i found that book on amazon ( and it seems much cheaper there than the price on that link you sent me. what's up with that?

    8) well, even the book acknowledges that 1904 isn't that old.

    the oldest restaurant in the US was estb in 1673 (1776 was when America declared independence, but it was around as a colony for a couple centuries before that, kiddo).

    then again, Guinness claims that a spanish restaurant from 1725 is the oldest in the world.

    a tavern in austria claims to have opened in 803.

    i wonder what the average oldest existing restaurant is, throughout the world, in europe, asia? i bet 1904 isn't too bad for asia.

    anyway, yes, please make a reservation at The Golden Peace.

  17. 6/7) alright then. I will send u a good cookbook, but since I will be busy with moving and starting my new job it might take a couple of weeks to get it done... but be prepared...

    The difference in price might be due to
    1) The book being from an American publishing company --> having to be imported to Sweden
    2) The weakness of the dollar as of right now
    3) It's a "bargain book" in (according to their website)
    4) Regardless, the shipping costs from the US might offsett any difference in price between and the Swedish site...

    8) Is the restaurant that was estb in 1673 still around, and has it been running continuosly since 1673? If not, it shouldn't count. And yes, I know that the US was a colony before it declared itself independent. Btw did you know the first European discoverers of America probably were Vikings?

    I guess there's gonna be a lot of different claims of what constitutes the "oldest" restaurant in the world, depending on what criteria you use. But I think it should be at the same location, have been running continuosly and be following more or less the same concept...

  18. 6/7) i will be waiting eagerly for it!!!

    yes, i suppose many reasons could explain the price diff. just funny that a swedish cookbook is cheaper in the states--then again, everything's cheaper in the states, even imported brands.

    8) yes, White Horse Tavern is still open.

    in addition to same location, running continuously, and more/less same concept, i think same ownership, same name should also count as factors. at least 3 of the criteria should be met for a restaurant to qualify. most of the restaurants that i've reviewed from OKRKL have 1 or 2.

  19. 6/7) maybe you could send me your adress by email then? And are there any other food products from Sweden you want to have? Btw have you tried the Swedish caviar yet?

    8) cool, then I want to visit that place some time in the future!

    I think the criteria about "same ownership" could be kinda hard to fulfill... I mean, the same family running a place for several hundred years in a row?

  20. 6/7) i'll send you my address by email. thanks!

    i probably will want/need certain ingredients, but i won't know until i see the cookbook. maybe we could even have an ingredient exchange on occasion. btw, did u buy any buchim garu as i suggested?

    i'm saving the caviar for when i can feature it properly in a post. but it's on my nightstand, so i see it every morning when i get up, meaning that i won't be forgetting about it.

    however, i've undertaken a very intense workout/diet regimen with a personal trainer, starting thursday. the diet part, which will last for another 2 weeks, allows me only to eat chicken breasts, sweet potatoes, and vegetables--no salt, sugar, fat, sauces of any kind.

    and then i'll be in manila for a couple weeks.

    so i won't be able to do anything until october.

    which means that the 3-way north korean cookoff will have to wait--actually, u and lisa can do it and send me photos, but i won't do mine until later. hey, as the keeper of the book, why don't u assign us recipes to do? u can decide whether we should do something weird or maybe start with something more practical.

    one challenge will be making sense of the ingredients. does the book have a glossary? in the second duck example, the one that looks kinda like cantonese roast duck, one of the ingredients is "희포도술," which i'd assume to be white wine, but then the photo includes a bottle of "cognac" in the background, which is sub-labelled "포도술." another example, "곷가두배추" seems to refer both to broccoli and cauliflower.

    8) yes, "same family" would be difficult for a very old place. but i was thinking that if the same family had a restaurant by the same name in the same location for several decades/generations, but changed the menu at some point, it should still count.

  21. 9) come to think of it, i should try visiting the (supposedly) oldest restaurant in every city that i visit. i'll start with manila at the end of the month. that would be a really cool long-term project. damn, i wish i'd thought of this sooner.

  22. 6) Good, looking forward to it!

    An ingredient exchange sounds like a good idea! Actually never good around to buying the buchim garu, so that's something you could buy for me if we would do an ingredient exchange!

    Looking forward to the caviar post as well!

    Chicken breast diet? Is that a popular diet in Korea?

    I will actually have a hard time doing any serious cooking for the coming weeks. I've just started my new job (my first "real" job since I graduated), which is also in a new city. The problem is that I will not be able to move into my new apartment until around oct 1st. Until then I'm crashing at a friends place. Until I have my own place I don't plan on doing any serious cooking.... The cookbook is also, along with most of my other stuff, is in a moving box in my old place in Uppsala right now, which makes assigning recipes kinda hard...

    So I think we should plan the North Korean Cook-Off for some time in October!

    Yeah making sense of the ingredients might be kinda hard, but it kinda part of the challenge, I think. As far as I remember there is no glosarry in the book...

  23. i think for the next couple weeks, the posts here will be pretty boring, mostly chicken breasts, so i'll come back with a vengeance in october.

    let's do the ingredient exchange after u send me the cookbook, good. eager to get some yellow peas to make that soup.

    good luck on your new job, homer!