Pyttipanna—Swedish fry-up

by | Mar 28, 2019

The Great Battle of Pyttipanna was fought in 1974, and mostly on the pages of Dagens Nyheter.

It started relatively innocently, with a letter from your everyday angry citizen. He complained about finding sausage (the horror!) in his pyttipanna at the bistro of esteemed restaurant Operakällaren.

“Restauranteurs have been poled for this“, he writes “with a wilted fork”.

This humble Swedish hash, or fry-up, apparently stirred up great feelings. The following days and weeks, Dagens Nyheter seems to have received a deluge of more or less hilarious replies. It published some of them, including the response from a staff writer who felt compelled to take a break in his vacation to offer his view (“adding sausage turns it into a sausage-pyttipanna”).

The two battling camps were The Tolerants (“of course you can use whatever you want”) and The Purists (“May we fight for pyttipanna without sausage, Mr. General Secretary”).

pyttipanna from 1965-70
Table set with pyttipanna, here served with egg yolks, from 1965-1970. Picture from Karl-Erik Granath/Nordiska Museet.

Of course, rival newspaper Svenska Dagbladet spared no time publishing a letter joking about what a “real” pyttipanna looked like at the tables of fancy neighborhood Östermalm. What did this fantastical “most delicious pyttipanna” contain? Apparently, pieces of hazel hen, partridge, and snow grouse, tenderloin, foisgras, and truffle. If you so wished, you could add some spoons of caviar.

So how did the battle end? Of course with a strike from famed restauranteur, gastronomist and man-in-charge of Operakällaren, Tore Wretman. He noted (not without a hint of fatigue) that unlike France, Sweden hasn’t codified dishes. There’s no One True Way or a set list of mandatory ingredients. Meaning: use what you’ve got.

All in all, I am sure all parties had fun, and that nothing but egos were harmed.

The aftermath of the great battle

Pyttipanna isn’t a dish that takes up space in the older cookbooks. The reason is simple—it consists of leftovers. Jokingly, this dish has been referred to by the name of a Swedish gossip magazine, Hänt iveckan, (“Happened this week”), because it contains whatever you have at home. In a sweet personal ad from 1953, a woman looks for a man who “nicely eats the everyday pyttipanna” but also appreciates a party or feast. Unpretentious and humble, yet satisfying.

Of course, there’s the haute-cuisine version, which happily uses filet mignon, or why not “eggs 63°C” like Mathias Dahlgren.

pytten pyttipanna swedish fry-up

How to make a delicious pyttipanna, or Swedish fry-up

The idea of giving you a recipe for a dish of leftovers feels arrogant, but here are some suggestions. If you want to go for haute-cuisine, use finer ingredients and go for a uniform size when you cut up the food. Otherwise, “rustic” is a perfectly fine guide.

2-3 leftover potatoes per person.
100-150 g (about 1/4 pound) meat per person—leftover steak, sausage (if you dare), ham, bacon, meatballs, etc—use what you have. I like the beef + pork belly combo.
1/4 – 1/2 onion per person
Salt and pepper

For frying: butter, or oil
For serving (optional): pickled beetroot. Parsely is nice, too.

  1. Chop up the boiled potatoes and fry them until golden.
  2. Dice the onion medium-fine and fry it until golden and soft.
  3. Chop the meats and fry them until they have browned slightly and are warm.
  4. Fry an egg per person and place to the side.
  5. Add all the fried ingredients together and make sure they are warm. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve with a fried egg on top, and pickled beetroot or ketchup.

Suggestions

If you’re impatient, fry all the ingredients in the same pan and add new ones as you go along. Start with the one that will take the longest (usually the potato).

Swedes are fond of serving this dish with a fried egg or a yolk, and pickled beetroot. As a child, I was happy to swap the beetroot for ketchup, though.

The “recipe” above is a quite traditional version. Add whatever extra leftovers you think will work together. Some boiled root vegetables? Perfect.

swedish fry-up pyttipanna

8 Comments

  1. Ann Truong

    Love Swedish cooking.

    Reply
  2. Martha Lindberg

    One of the best meals I had was at a restaurant in Smaland when we were visiting family. I had pyttypanna! Something so easy can be so delicious.

    Reply
  3. Roz

    One of my favourite meals! I’ve been eating it since I was a child and now in my eighties I still can’t wait for left overs. I just need to cook it whenever I feel like it!! My recipe which came from my mother, is just the same as yours!

    Reply
    • Isabelle Fredborg

      Glad you like pyttipanna, Roz! Though I must confess that my “recipe” very much depends on what I have at home…

      Reply
  4. Tony Fisher

    We were travelling around Sweden and had some pytipanna for lunch where it was the ‘dagens rätt’. I couldn’t be sure where, but I think it may have been in Norrköping. It was simply delicious and, I realised, deliciously simple, so I have quite often made it back home in England – with (of course) whatever is to hand. Tomorrow I have left-overs of smoked ham, black pudding and (whisper it) sausage … Really, in my opinion it’s less of a recipe, more of a technique to be applied to what you have got. We’ll definitely have a fried egg on top, and being partial to a bit of spiciness I’ll probably have a bit of chipotle ketchup too. In fact, I can hardly wait!

    Reply
    • Isabelle Fredborg

      Tony, you’re so right. Pyttipanna really is more of a technique or mindset than a recipe. But, then again, some people really want specific recipes, so the above is just a suggestion. Black pudding sounds like an interesting inclusion, haven’t tried that due to… well, lack of black pudding.

      Reply
      • Tony Fisher

        I’ve enjoyed blodpudding in Sweden. Not quite the same as black pudding in the UK, but then that’s very varied too. I found Swedish blodpudding sweeter than I’m used to in the UK, but nevertheless very enjoyable.

        Reply

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Hej och välkommen!

My name is Isabelle. Here at Swedish Spoon, you’ll find Swedish food history, tried-and-tested recipes, and a lot of obsessing over great butter. You can also expect some travel tips.

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