5.126 Creamy Sailor Potatoes with Pan-Fried Halibut

-Cycle 5, Item 126-
11 (Sun) May 2014

Creamy Sailor Potatoes with Pan-Fried Halibut


by me

in my apartment

-Ermita, Manila-


From the recipes retrieved in a quick internet search, a dish labeled "sailor" in Swedish cuisine would seem to involve meat and/or potatoes simmered in beer, along with various seasonings/herbs/aromatics.

[I would appreciate further clarification from Gustaf.]

As described in a recent post, Number One Swedish Fan Gustaf sent me a care package, which included a Swedish cookbook (see generally 5.100 Tomatsill with Baguette Slices).

My first recipe-based dish in Manila.

Before the cream.

Tonight, I made Sailor Potatoes, the first recipe attempted from the book.  On short notice, given certain ingredient deficiencies (e.g., access to reindeer meat is severely limited in Manila), it was one of the more doable dishes in the book.  Another problem was that I couldn't quite imagine what many of the dishes would be like, so my options were limited to the more conceivable ones.

According to Gustaf, Swedes don't typically drink vodka with their meals (see generally 3.330 Kåldolmar), even Absolut, a Swedish brand, one of the world's most famous, but I couldn't resist.

The potatoes didn't turn out so great.  The problem was that the recipe called for "dark beer," but the supermarket had only either lager or abbey-style/extra-dark/high-alcohol ale, so I went with the latter.  However, even after 45 minutes of cooking, both the broth and the potatoes remained extremely bitter.  In fact, I turned off the heat, went back to the supermarket, and bought cream, hoping that it would mellow out the flavors.  Yes, but not entirely.  Oh well.

Started with a garden salad in mango dressing, just goes to show how much I've expanded my horizons.

Midway through, I suddenly realized that Gustaf had also sent me lingonberry jam, which I then added to improve and further authenticate the experience.

Nevertheless, the meal overall was great.  A piece of savory fish, creamy if bitter potatoes, sweet and tangy jam to counterbalance.  At the end of it, I actually said to myself, "This was a fine meal."


  1. Hey man! Great to see you tried one of the recipes!

    What you're saying is correct. I would say the dish "sjömansbiff" (sailor's beef) is the most famous of the types. meat + potatoes + various seasonings/herbs/aromatics simmered in beer. So called because it was often made by sailors out at sea (duh). The reason beer was used was because clean water was often not readily available, and everything was cooked in the same pot to make it easier (I would imagine the kitchens in vessels back in the day were pretty small...)..

    I really appreciate your effort to make every meal as "authentic" as possible :)

  2. well, according to you, the meal would've been more authentic with milk.

    what i don't get about these origins stories involving alcohol, which always have something to do with the lack of fresh water, if they have the storage capacity for beer or wine or whatever, why don't they just store water?

  3. Milk, or water... I would guess most adults in Sweden don't drink milk to a normal meal.... But they would definitely not consume alcohol to a normal meal on a normal weekday (that would be seen as borderline alcoholic...)

    Probably because clean water was not readily available in any place. I have probably mentioned the show "Historieätarna" (History Eaters) where the hosts try "living" in different time periods, dressing like they did back then, working like they did back then, but especially EATING like they did back then.. And for several of the episodes they only drank beer for an entire week, because beer back then was the only liquid you could drink without risking getting sick (the water in the beer being boiled and having other stuff in it that would kill bacteria etc...)...

  4. well, this was sunday, which is the weekend, so i guess i'm not an alcoholic. i drink scotch on weekdays.

    okay, i can see that alcohol would be safer than water under certain emergency circumstances. but if you're going on a long boat trip, and you have storage space, then store fresh/clean water, which is more versatile than alcohol, right?

    Anyway, you never told me about that History Eaters program. Sounds interesting. Because I';m convinced that if we were to go back in time, even 100 years ago, the food would generally not be very good, certainly nothing like today.

  5. hahaha yeah then there's no problem ;)

    I think the problem is that back in the day alcohol was not only safer than water "under certain emergency circumstances", rather "more or less all the time", since people had no concept of proper hygiene, sewage water tended to mix up with the drinking water, people didn't know they could boil water to get rid of the worst bacteria etc...Also even if you would be abel to find clean water, it would probably go bad during the long trip....

    You are very much right. For most of the time periods they "visit", the food actually seems pretty awful... The programme is actually based on a show sent on the BBC, called "The Supersizers..." (

  6. if it's true that water goes bad, I guess it could if the storage container itself is somewhat dirty (I was thinking of nice clean sealed plastic containers, in which water would theoretically last forever), or that they didn't think of hygiene, like drinking straight from the barrel, then OK, yes, alcohol would be the better option.

    I would love to watch "Supersizers." I wonder how I could access it.

  7. Since this dish (and dishes like it) were probably "invented" some time in the 19th-, 18th centuries and plastic wasn't being mass produced until some time around the 1950's, plastic probably wasn't an option...

    It's all on youtube! Here's their episode about the french revolution!

    Btw why don't you shut down the possibility for unregistered users to comment? That would stop all those spambots....

  8. I'll watch the shows on youtube for sure. thanks!

    how do you know that I get spambots?

  9. no problem!

    because I have clicked in the "notify me" box on the posts I have replied on... Because of that, I gather about 50 % of the e-mails I receive on my personal e-mail consists of spambot messages for those posts.... I can't imagine how many in total this blog must get. Why not just stop it all together by forcing people who post to register? I mean, you COULD loose a couple of posts from some random people who don't want to register but still want to comment, but you would get rid of the problem with all your posts getting full of irrellevant bullsh-t from spambots...

  10. I hadn't realized that commenters get the spam too. actually, I only get those spambot messages every once in a while. But some posts, like that one from the plane when I was watching Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, somehow get "tagged" by a spamsite, which drives up the hit count, even though the spam itself seems to stop.

    But okay, I'll turn off the comments for unregistered. Thanks for the heads-up.