The Scandinavian Potato Bake Anchovy Fans Need To Try

If you look at a map of the Scandinavian nations — Norway, Sweden, and Denmark — you'll notice that one natural element is quite abundant: water. Though Norway takes the cake in terms of the longest coastline at 36,122 miles, per World Population Review, it is clear that between the myriad of rivers, lakes, and coastal regions of Scandinavia, fish must play a vital role in the cuisine of the region. This is particularly true of Sweden, the nation responsible for surströmming, a canned, fermented herring that smells strongly of rotten eggs (via Daily Scandinavian). But we're not here to talk about stinky herring. We're here to talk about anchovies.

Here in the United States, we tend to have a rather skewed version of anchovies. The fish that has been enjoyed with reckless abandon since ancient times has long been viewed by Americans as a salty, cheap ingredient for a Caesar dressing or a topping for a pizza (via Town and Country Magazine). Yet, there are still those who love these briny little jewels and if you fall on the "Likes Anchovies" side of the equation, this article is for you. 

There is a yuletide dish in Sweden called Janssons temptation, or Janssons frestelse in Swedish; It's an anchovy potato bake that anyone with an anchovy affection needs to try, or at the very least know about.

If Jansson can be tempted, so will you

No one is exactly sure how this dish came into being, or who exactly Jansson is. There is a prevailing theory that the so-called "tempted" Jansson was a food enthusiast and opera singer from the early 1900s called Mr. Janzon. The name has been disputed but Jansson's temptation has been a popular Christmastime treat in Sweden since the 1940s (via The traditional Swedish Christmas table, called the julbord, would be considered incomplete without this dish.

Jansson's temptation is relatively straightforward. According to Food52, the composition of the temptation is very much like a standard gratin. A creamy, potato based casserole, Jansson's temptation is a simple concoction of potatoes, onions, cream, and bread crumbs that are mixed together and baked in the oven. The differentiating ingredient is the fish itself: anjovis. But the name of the star ingredient has been known to cause some confusion. While ansjovis translates to English as "anchovies," the ansjovis sold in Sweden are actually a different type of fish called sprats. 

Sprats are small, oily fish that are similar in taste and texture to anchovies, though sprats tend to be on the sweeter side of the flavor profile. You can find Swedish ansjovis at specialty stores, online, or at IKEA (no joke). Though doesn't recommend substituting ansjovis for standard anchovies, Food52 states that good quality anchovies should yield a decent Jansson's temptation.