Swedish meatballs are from Turkey

Swedish meatballs are based on a recipe King Charles XII brought to Sweden from Turkey in the early 18th century. Actresses (above, from left) Mackenzie Davis, Charlize Theron and writer Diablo Cody at the after-party for the premiere of Tully.
Swedish meatballs are based on a recipe King Charles XII brought to Sweden from Turkey in the early 18th century. PHOTO: THE NEW YORK TIMES

LONDON • Sweden, land of Ikea and social welfare, made a shocking announcement this week. Swedish meatballs, the signature national dish, are really Turkish.

The country's national Twitter account said: "Swedish meatballs are actually based on a recipe King Charles XII brought home from Turkey in the early 18th century. Let's stick to the facts!"

It was not immediately clear why Sweden decided that now was the time to set the record straight, but the admission created a storm of reaction.

Turks rejoiced. Some Swedes were dismayed.

"My whole life has been a lie," one Swede lamented on Twitter.

Some Turks urged Sweden to change the name of its meatballs to the Turkish name, "kofte".

The Turkish media called the Swedish tweet a "confession" and suggested that King Charles, who reigned from 1697 to 1718 and spent some years in exile in the Ottoman Empire, took other Turkish products back to Sweden, including coffee beans and stuffed cabbage.

Sweden's national Twitter account, apparently not wanting to start a culinary war, responded neutrally: "Mind you, we love coffee even more than meatballs! At one point, we even had a coffee prohibition in Sweden!"

But it also seized the opportunity to highlight some of the country's inventions. (Behold, the three-point seat belt.)

The Swedish statement raised many burning questions, among them: What does it mean for Ikea? The Swedish furniture giant has long made Swedish meatballs a staple of its cafeterias in stores worldwide.

Even in Turkey, many families flock to Ikea on the weekends to eat Swedish meatballs on the cheap.

Turkish meatballs are distinct from Swedish meatballs in some ways.

The former are made with a combination of ground beef, ground lamb, onions, eggs, bread crumbs and parsley.

The current version of Swedish meatballs can sometimes contain pork and is usually served with gravy.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2018, with the headline 'Swedish meatballs are from Turkey '. Print Edition | Subscribe