VIDEO: Salmiakki: Finnish Salty Licorice

Never shying away from trying new exotic delights in Finland, we grabbed a package of Finnish Salmiakki, known as black salty licorice, to sample in a ‘fear factor’ type of taste test: many foreigners have spat it out on the first try.

Salty liquorice, known in Finnish as Salmiakki or Salmiak, is a type of liquorice flavored with ammonium chloride.

It’s one of the most common candy snacks in Nordic countries; however, it’s most popular in Finland.

The ammonium chloride gives the black salty licorice its astringent / salty taste.

It has such an overpowering taste that it has been referred to by some as tongue numbing.

Salmiakki photo by Eric Wahlforss

With this in mind we both sat down to taste this exotic Finnish delight.

I’ve grown up in a family that adores liquorice. Late night ‘treats’ often consisted of either a bowl of popcorn with Parmesan cheese of a package of nibs or black licorice.

Knowing that I loved ‘sweet’ American style licorice, I sat down with an open mind convinced I’d learn to love this Finnish salty counterpart.

As I popped my first piece into my mouth, the astringent taste overwhelmed my taste buds. I had never tasted anything quite like this before in my life; in fact, I couldn’t think of a single other food item I’ve ever tried before that quite compared to what was now jammed in my mouth.

Should I swallow or spit it out?

The answer was obvious: swallow.

I instantly fell in love with Salmiakki; instead, of just popping one into my mouth I grabbed a handful. Within just an hour I had devoured the entire bag.

Audrey, on the other hand, had an entirely different experience.

Not a fan of licorice in any way, the results were rather predictable; as soon as she popped it into her mouth she spat it out immediately: “Yuck! This is disgusting. How could you possibly eat that?” she murmured.

I wish I had my camera in my hand (as opposed to filming with a camcorder) to capture the moment.

“It’s amazing!” I said with absolute conviction: “It’s wonderful that you don’t like it. That means I get to eat it all!”

Salmiakki chocolate candy by Mahmut

For those seeking to try Salmiakki – while traveling in Finland – have options galore. Although most popular as bite sized candy, Salmiakki is now found in other products such as ice cream, alcoholic beverages, cola drinks, vodka, chocolate and even meat.

My favorite brand of Salmiakki happened to be Fazer. Fazer, known more for its creamy chocolate bars, was a brand I quickly associated with comfort food. I ended polishing off several king sized bars of Fazer chocolate and family sized bags of Salmiakki before my time in Finland had expired. I suppose that’s my excuse for my ever expanding blogger belly ;)

Salmiakki drinks by flickr user Anssi Koskinen

In neighboring countries it is known by different names:

Swedish: salmiaklakrits

Danish: salmiaklakrids

The question of the day: Would you try this Finnish candy? Do you like salty food? Are you open to trying new foods abroad or do you prefer to stick to familiar favorites? I would love to encourage you to try it and document your experience on camera. Will you swallow or spit it out? That’s the million dollar question of the day ;)

Foreigners eating salty black Finnish liquorice Salmiakki in Finland

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Sophie October 6, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Ah yes, we love salty liquorice up here in the Nordics. One of those things you have to grow up with, I think – like Vegemite or peanut butter, something one either loves or hates. I see you tried salty liquorice chocolate, too. There’s a fabulous Icelandic brand of liquorice-filled chocolate called Draumur (meaning Dream). You (and your family) would love that :)

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Samuel Jeffery October 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Thanks Sophie!

I’m going to be on the lookout for Draumur. I can’t wait to try it and mostly likely send it home :)

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Mary @ Green Global travel October 7, 2013 at 12:55 am

While I love black liquorice, I can’t say that I am tempted by it’s salty variation and can relate to Audrey’s reaction! With that said, I love trying new things and am inspired by the fact that you both dove in and delighted to read your about your radically divergent reactions.

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Samuel Jeffery October 12, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Thanks Mary!

Hahaha…we definitely couldn’t have reacted any more differently.

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Lunaguava October 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Nope. Not gonna do it. Even after years of teasing from my Nordic friends, I will not learn to love salty licorice or any of its many variants available in Northern Europe. I’ll stick to Vegemite. Kudos on your adventurous and impressively adaptable taste buds!

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Samuel Jeffery October 12, 2013 at 5:23 pm

I really want to try Vegemite!

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Tamara (@Turtlestravel) October 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Believe it or not, I’m already a fan of salty licorice! We haven’t had the opportunity to visit Finland or any other Nordic countries (YET), but I do love licorice. When we came upon a roadside store featuring “56 Kinds of Licorice” in Jordan, Minnesota, we just had to stop. It was there we tried salty licorice for the first time. There were several varieties of salty, so as uninformed novices we tried a number of them. Delicious. We were immediately addicted. Will have to look for the Finnish version for sure.

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Samuel Jeffery October 12, 2013 at 5:29 pm

That’s a cool story Tamara!

I think it’s great to challenge your taste buds; it’s such a pleasant surprise to find a new food item that you adore.

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Stephanie - The Travel Chica October 11, 2013 at 12:54 am

I’m intrigued.

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Samuel Jeffery October 12, 2013 at 5:39 pm

I hope you get a chance to try it :)

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NSA January 28, 2014 at 4:48 am

Love licorice. Don’t love salmiakki.

OK, the saltiness was actually pretty good and worked well with the licorice. BUT…
a couple of seconds later comes the ammonia! Like brie or camembert that has been around too long; like fish that has seen better days; like a bucket of stale pi… You get the picture.

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