The popular perception about European food is that it is quite bland and unimaginative. But Finland proves quite an exception to that case! The Finns are extremely proud of their culinary heritage, and rightly so since traditional Finnish food is as tasty as it is interesting.
The basic ingredients in most traditional dish will comprise of either fish or meat—almost always accompanied by potatoes, rye bread—which is the staple in Finland, and different kinds of berries.
Finland is the land of many rivers and streams and the fresh waters of Gulf of Bothnia are home to very fertile fishing grounds. Salmon is quite popular, and in most pubs or restaurants, you will find “Lohikeitto” featured on the menu, which is a soup with salmon, leek and potato. It’s very tasty and filling, and makes for a meal by itself.
Another popular salmon dish is “Graavilohi” which means salt cured salmon. Apart from that, they have a very traditional Finnish fish pie called “Kalakukko”, which is a thick rye crust stuffed with herring fish.
Lastly, we cannot talk about fish in Finland without bringing up crayfish, the national favourite. Known as “Rapu”, the crayfish are small fresh water lobsters which are very expensive and available only for a short season every year. The Finns love to hold crayfish parties to enjoy the season with their friends and family.
In the meat department, beef, chicken and pork are all traditionally consumed in Finnish households but reindeer meat is quintessentially Finnish fare. Called “Poronkaristys”, the dish is typically served with mashed potatoes and/or lingonberry jam and eaten all year round.
The Finns take their breads very seriously. Cinnamon buns and crepes and pancakes are all very popular and consumed with great alacrity, but the Finnish staple, and the bread closest to a Finn’s heart, is “Ruisleipa”. It is a wholegrain rye bread, made with sour dough. It is quite flat, quite dense, and very heavy. It is traditionally had during breakfast, with butter and cloudberry jam, or also during lunch with soups.
Come summer, the Finnish countryside bursts into a cacophony of different coloured berries, of which blueberries are the most abundant. Finns enjoy these in jams or as blueberry pies, and the jury is still out on whether the Finns make the best blueberry pies in the world.
“Mustikkapiirakka” is a traditional, gluten free blueberry pie, best consumed with homemade vanilla ice cream. Blueberry buns called “Mustikkapulla” are also quite popular. Lingonberry is another kind of berry found in Finland. It’s quite tart and is used as an accompaniment to many savoury dishes as a jam. The most divine of them all, however, is cloudberry. They are a deep orange colour and very sweet, and enjoyed in Finnish households either as jams or by themselves.
Other traditional Finnish snacks that you might want to look out for in Finland are “Leipajuusto” which is a type of oven baked cheese cut into thin wedges and serve with cloudberry jam, and “Karjalanpiirakka”, which is a rice pie stuffed with rice porridge and potatoes and served with munavoi, which is an egg and butter mixture. These are popular items to watch out for at the local market. But if you are lucky enough to sample them at someone’s home, then don’t miss the opportunity to experience the authentic flavours!
If you want to bring the taste of Finland in your own kitchen, then perhaps you might want to tackle a traditional salmon soup. The ingredients are easily available at supermarkets around the world.
- To start with, chop a couple of onions or leeks and sauté them in butter till they are golden brown.
- Add around 6 cups of water to the pot.
- Dice around 1 kg of potatoes into cubes and add those to the pot with some salt and pepper and 1 bay leaf.
- Let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes, and stir only occasionally.
- Then add 500 grams of salmon fish fillet. They must be de-skinned and cubed.
- Immediately, add 4 cups of heavy cream and some freshly cut dill.
- Cook for only 5 minutes, as salmon doesn’t take long to cook.
- Add a tablespoon of butter and stir till it melts in the soup.
- Fish out the bay leaf and discard it.
- Serve the soup hot with a garnishing of dill and accompanied with some rye bread for an authentic Finnish meal.