Asian Buffets in Stockholm, an exercise in ‘regret’

“Is that curry you are eating?” Asked a Swedish colleague.

“Yeap, its a chicken curry, I made it the way we make it at home.”

“But you are eating it with rice?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t you eat rice with soya sauce? I love rice with soya sauce!”

“We don’t eat rice with soya sauce… well my grandparents during the war maybe”

“Oh…”

“Wanna try the curry?”

“… Yes please!”

Every once in a while I crave a cheap buffet where I can eat to my hearts content without thinking of Kroner bills fleeing my wallet with every plate I order, and then there are times where all I want is a lot of greasy and deep fried things…

Unhealthy I know… and that’s what I go to an Asian buffet in Stockholm. Because Asian buffets in Stockholm are not for healthy eating, they are for getting stuffed, it is quantity over quality – pay a little for the typical value in this city and get a lot in terms of food.

An Asian buffet in Stockholm does not represent all of Asia, it usually refers to the most common stereotypical foods from East and Southeast Asia: Japanese sushi, Taiwanese potstickers, mainland Chinese stir-fry, Thai curries, and miso soups, plus a lot of fried food – prawns, shrimp, duck, chicken, pork pick your animal. Now none of these preparations in an Asian buffet are truly representative of their culture or culinary must tries. More often than not, the people who start these Asian buffets in Stockholm are Chinese people (hence this post will have a slight slant to Chinese cuisine).

Fried food is tempting and tasty, its a sinful delight and its hard to find ordinary people (those not too obsessed with health) who would not appreciate a fried dish from time to time.

Just be warned that all that fried food, with way too much MSG and salt has a surfeiting effect on your stomach and will leave you feeling more than a little stuffed and bloated.

Now anyone who has been to any of these countries or is from these cultures, you’d know that the cuisine of these East Asian cultures is amazing,

Even its street food is great.

So why have these vast cuisines been cramped into the most simple and basic versions you can imagine in Stockholm?

I can think of three reasons why Asian food in Stockholm is not at a sufficiently mature stage, just as the knowledge of Asia in this part of the world is not as strong and still rather stereotypical.

The first is demand. Authentic food comes when there is a demand for it, and that demands tends to come from a stable clientle that wants this authentic food, since the Asian population in Stockholm is so small the regular customer base for genuine Asian food is likewise small and such food is therefore restricted to more high-end restaurants. This is the reason why Asian food in London, Berlin, New York and Los Angeles is so much more authentic and mature.

It’s the reason why an authentic South Asian restaurant (Saravana Bhavan) opened in Stockholm’s Kista district only last year – there are many more south Asians who have come to Stockholm to power its tech industry.

The second is people type. The people who come to Stockholm usually come as student or professionals, rather than as families. Those who set up restaurants were usually not themselves professionally trained restaurateurs, nor even homecooks. This will probably eventually change if more Asians decide to immigrant to the Nordics, as it is for example in America, and Asian cuisine moves up the hierarchy of tastes in Stockholm. This will probably not happen any time soon.

The third is market. If you want to cater to a market that doesn’t know Asian food well,you have to change the taste to suite the local palette. Thats’s what happened to sushi and hand rolls in Stockholm as it has in many America/European/Australian cities creating its own version of Asian food.

I can give you all the reasons, but every few months I get a craving. And despite knowing that my stomach is going to hate me for the rest of the day, I still go back to get an Asian buffet fix.

Hey, beggars can’t be choosers…

“Where are you getting lunch?” asks another colleague.

“Asian”

“That shitty place and the shitty food?”

“It has fried prawns and fish today,” I respond in mock defence.

“Ah damn it, I was there yesterday, they did have it on the menu…”

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