Gubbröra—egg and sprats salad

by | Nov 17, 2019

There’s a Swedish saying that can be translated into “a dear child has many names” (kärt barn har många namn). Some “dear children” seem to have a rather unnecessary amount of names—and gubbröra is one of them.

How many names can a simple egg and sprats salad deserve, anyway?

In the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in March 1923, a reader writes about this dish, considering it “a familiar and generally appreciated dish on smörgåsbordet whether it is followed by a shot [snaps] or not”. The reader, called C., has gathered 13 different names of the salad and asks whether there are any more.

Poor C. doesn’t get a reply but writes again three years later —with even more names.

Are you ready?

Source: C., SvD, 9 mars 1923

This entirely unscientific summary of C.’s findings shows how this “valued yolk-sprats-onion-dish” has had different names around Sweden, at least at the time of C.’s informal study in the 20s. The name “gubbröra” seems to originate from Norrbotten in the North of Sweden.

So, what does gubbröra contain?

I don’t know what C. found out during the name study, but the summary seems to be that gubbröra contains onion, egg, and sprats. The Swedes call the sprats ansjovis. There are both cold and warm versions of the dish.

Reviewing recipes of cold gubbröra, it’s obvious that chefs seem happy to use both creme fraîche and mayonnaise in their mixes. Leif Mannerström doesn’t just use creme fraîche and mayonnaise, but also capers. Tore Wretman’s mix features old-school unsmoked caviar instead. Nils Emil Ahlin goes for both Mannerström’s creme fraîche och mayonnaise and Wretman’s caviar—plus potatoes.

But if we consider this a spontaneous dish that is quickly stirred together, maybe after a few beers, when it is getting late (or early)—then a more simple version may feel more authentic. Crush a few leftover boiled eggs, chop up the remains of an onion, raid a jar of sprats. Of course, it is even more delicious if you can add some chopped herbs and an extra yolk. But this excessive mayonnaise bathing really isn’t necessary for a flavorful, creamy mix.

gubbröra egg and sprats salad

How to make a rustic gubbröra

If you can’t survive without mayonnaise, whipped cream, or creme fraîche, sure, add whatever you want. However, it really isn’t necessary for a creamy mix. For one person as a meal or two as a snack:

2 boiled eggs
1-2 tbsp onion (I prefer red)
1 small jar sprats, about 6-8 fillets (or less, if you want)
1 yolk
chopped dill and chives (can be substituted or skipped, but some herbs are recommended)
salt and pepper

For serving: hard bread (knäckebröd) or dark bread such as rye

  1. Peel the eggs, chop them finely and put them in a bowl.
  2. Chop the sprats, onion, and herbs finely and put in the egg bowl.
  3. Mix it all together with a yolk. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Enjoy it on a piece of hard bread (knäckebröd)—maybe with a beer.

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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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