The Swedish retail monster is coming to New Zealand, but amid all the excitement, its greatest asset has been left in the shadows. No longer: here we celebrate the unique culinary experience that is eating at IKEA.
Even though globalisation has had its slimy tentacles tightly gripped around Aotearoa for some years now, we still get excited when something big and new and international arrives on our shores.
Especially when the arrival in question is food-related. Just as in Porirua in 1976, when queues snaked down the street in anticipation of the very first New Zealand McDonald’s opening its doors, last year doughnut fans lined up for literal days waiting for our first Krispy Kreme to open in Manukau.
And now, IKEA. Yes, it’s a home store, but people go just as nuts for the Swedish giant’s curious food offerings as for its flat-pack furniture. Why? Because it’s cheap, it’s novel, it’s somehow familiar and a wee bit exotic at the same time.
In light of the news that an IKEA megastore, complete with the signature Swedish Food Market and restaurant, will be opening in Auckland within a couple of years, we decided to power-rank the best IKEA foods. Here they are, ranked from slightly exciting to extremely exciting.
10. KNÄCKEBRÖD RÅG
Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a Meal Mate or a Snax or 17, but sometimes you want a fancy cracker. And no one does fancy crackers better than the Scandinavians. These rye crispbreads are like a tastier and far less depressing version of those rice cake situations office workers snack on in a noble attempt to be vaguely healthy. Top them with something yum like cheese or peanut butter or…
9. SILL DILL
Yes, the catchily named Sill Dill goes nicely atop a knäckebröd. One of IKEA’s best-sellers worldwide, it’s marinated herring with dill and is apparently tasty AF. Rumour has it the Sill Senap, or herring in mustard sauce, is also worth a go. Mix either variety with boiled spuds, cucumber, lettuce and red onion for an easy dinner.
Who doesn’t like a potato fritter? Is there a greater foodstuff? The answer is no. These come frozen for you to heat and eat at home by the stack. Good at any time of the day or night, but we particularly enjoy them for breakfast.
7. PAJ OST
This cheddar cheese and leek pie kinda looks like one of those mini quiches you get at office morning teas, but way better.
The Australian and American IKEAs don’t seem to offer these elky snacks, reserving them for the more sophisticated European and British markets. But with New Zealand’s fondness for venison, IKEA would be silly not to grant us access to festligt, because what is an elk if not a big-as-fuck deer? As the packet says, these smoked and dried elk and pork sausages bring flavour to the party. And what is a party without flavour? It’s a shit party, that’s what.
5. KALLES KAVIAR
Adorned with a Village-of-the-Damned-esque blond boy grinning maniacally, at first glance this could be a tube of toothpaste and/or Nazi propaganda. It’s not: it’s creamed smoked roe. IKEA advises spreading it on a crispbread (see 10), putting some on a boiled egg half or chucking it in an omelette. Apparently it’s the Marmite of Sweden, in that outsiders tend to find it revolting. Oh well, we’d give it a hoon. Also, it says Abba on the tube.
4. BAKELSE PRINSESS
Look at this cute AF little cake. Look at it! Sponge base, custard filling, marzipan topping. You can get them at the restaurant or frozen to serve at home. Apparently princess cakes are traditionally green, but we support the switch to more palatable pink in this instance.
3. SYLT HJORTRON
WTF is a cloudberry? Who knows, but apparently they’re rare and therefore a delicacy. The jam is sweet and sour and allegedly goes as well with cheese as it does ice cream. And presumably it’s good on toast too.
Apparently two million meatballs are eaten in IKEA stores per day – even a horse meat scandal couldn’t dampen people’s enthusiasm for köttbullar. They’re served with the tasty, tart lingonberry jam, which is essential to the experience, and a gravy-like cream sauce. As one Kai Corner member put it, “lingonberry jam on a meatball is probably what heaven tastes like”.
1. HOT DOG
Controversial not giving the meatballs the top spot, but multiple sources swear the “$1 mystery hot dogs”, as one Kai Corner commenter dubbed them, are “strangely delicious”. OK, they don’t have a fancy Swedish name. But they’re $1. (WELL, in Australia they’re a dollar, and we don’t have confirmation they’ll be a dollar here, but SURELY). And what else can you buy for a buck these days? “They’re super bog-standard,” said another source, “but for $1 and all the mustard you can top it with, it’s essential fuel before the IKEA shopping assault.”