The first time I heard about IKEA's Swedish Crayfish Party, I was going out of town to Mesa Verde National Park - Colorado. The subsequent years, it's either been sold out or I forgot about it entirely. I was determined to go at least once!
C'mon, $9.99 (with my IKEA family member discount) for all-you-can-eat crawfish? I'm sooo there!
Now, y'all know I love my crayfish, but what exactly is a Swedish crayfish party? According to the official Sweden site, crayfish were eaten in Sweden since the 1500s by the aristocracy. In the mid-1800s, it became more widespread, but it wasn't until the 1900s that the tradition, as it is now, started. Because of concerns about overfishing, catching crayfish was limited to a few months from August onward. Therefore, a Swedish crayfish celebration heralds the end of summer. Decorations might include paper lanterns depicting the man in the moon, bibs, and paper hats.
Unlike the overly spiced Cajun version, Swedish crayfish are simply boiled with salt and crown dill. No matter, I love crawfish in any form!
I ended up inviting one of my long-time students, who was pretty excited about all-you-can-eat crayfish. You have to go with someone who loves these little mudbugs too, otherwise, you're just eating boiled seafood and Swedish cafeteria food and that's no fun.
The line when we arrived already meandered outside of the restaurant area to the kids section.
The woman in line behind us snagged the very last ticket. Her husband drove down from Santa Clarita to buy the ticket for her, but couldn't get another for himself. They asked if he could sit with her and not eat (since he doesn't even like seafood), but IKEA wouldn't let him. Sold out! Only as many tickets as there are seats! No non-eating guests! This was serious stuff! So she asked if she could sit with us, and her husband left to wander around the store.
Look! The man in the moon and crayfish streamers decorations just like the Swedish website said!
After dropping stuff off at our assigned table, we were ready to check out the food.
The Swedish crayfish party isn't just about the crayfish. IKEA also brought out their other offerings such as cucumber salad and ham.
Deviled eggs with shrimp and faux caviar toppings. Remember when IKEA used to sell real caviar? Not necessarily high quality, but at least not seaweed and salmon molecular gastronomy granules.
Paj Ost (Swedish cheddar cheese and leek pie). These were pretty good. Sold at their frozen food market downstairs.
Of course, no trip to IKEA is complete without their meatballs! And unlike in Europe, the American meatballs do not contain any horsemeat. Not that I'm opposed to it, since I've eaten horsemeat before.
Boiled shrimp, lemons, and cocktail sauce. I was fine with eating plain boiled crawfish, but even better with lemons and cocktail sauce!
Had to snag a few desserts just in case they ran out later.
My tray of crayfish, cocktail sauce, meatballs, mashed potatoes, cheese leek pie, smoked salmon, deviled eggs, desserts, and lingonberry juice.
The mashed potato-looking lump in front was Gratang Jansson (Swedish potato gratin with marinated herring). Also available in their food market. Tasted like a smoked fish gratin.
My favorite was the chocolate torte.
In case you don't know how to eat crayfish and needed instructions. It's easy! Pull off head. Eat claw meat only if they're big and meaty. Otherwise, crack top of tail lengthwise, then pull out tail and eat.
I went back for a second full plate of crayfish.
So did my student. Actually, a really big second helping!
Our mounds of crayfish shells look pretty crazy next to that tiny mound the woman behind us had. There was actually a plastic trash can at the end of each table to dump the shells, but we wanted to save ours for the aftermath picture.
We counted as we tossed the shells away.
Exactly 100 crawfish consumed between the two of us.
The crayfish were imported from China, frozen, and then reheated. They were refilled several times so there was plenty, as well as the other food offerings. There was some Swedish singing and a raffle. No dancing like I saw at other IKEA parties. And we got a coupon to use in the food market.
The Swedish Crayfish Party at IKEA is usually held in mid-August and sells out every year so make sure you buy your tickets early! It's $12.99 without the family member discount, so sign up if you want to save money. And definitely go with someone who likes crayfish too.
Other places to get crayfish:
The Boiling Crab - Alhambra (Main St.)
The Boiling Crab - Alhambra (Valley Blvd.)
Rockin' Crawfish - Westminster (Little Saigon)
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