Flavors of Finland
Flavors of Finland
Related Articles
February 5

is the birthday of Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877), Finland's national poet.
But Runeberg is also attributed with the creation of a little almond cake topped with raspberry jam and pink icing

A Culinary Journey

In Finland, each of the four seasons brings with it its own characteristic delicacies. In the summer, there are flavorful vegetables, berries and mushrooms, as well as freshly-caught fish. On bright summer nights the shores of thousands of lakes are dotted with Finns grilling and smoking freshwater fish and preparing traditional pancakes over an open fire in special large muurinpohjapannu pans - then serving them with freshly-picked berries, whipped cream or ice cream.

Autumn is the time for crayfish parties, often arranged by rivers and lakes. The smaller, more succulent freshwater crayfish caught in rivers and lakes is a highly regarded delicacy that shows up on the menus of the finest restaurants. Autumn is also game season, though reindeer meat is available throughout the year. Reindeer stew served with mashed potatoes and cowberry jam is one of the most popular dishes in the restaurants of Lapland.

Tasty provincial specialties
Even today Finnish cuisine is based on natural ingredients and rural culture. A tourist traveling in Finland might encounter kalakukko (rye bread filled with small fish), sour rye bread or mämmi (a traditional pudding-like Easter dish made of rye and malt). Like karjalanpiirakka these were originally regional specialties that have now become known throughout the country. The characteristically strong flavors might take some getting used to, and not everybody likes mämmi at first. However, open-minded and adventurous visitors will find that sampling well-prepared regional specialties is an unforgettable experience.

In Tampere, you can try the local black pudding with lingonberry sauce, while a must at the Turku market hall is raisin or saltwater sausage.

The fall specialty at the Pori market is grilled lampreys, while Pieksamaki and Oulu both have their own versions of rieska flatbread.

North Karelia is the birthplace of Karelian pastries. Although they are eaten throughout Finland, the Joensuu version, spread with real butter, is the genuine article. The thin rye crust is filled with rice and shaped 'like a moccasin', as a visiting tourist once described them.

Pies and fish pasties have come to Finland from the east. The kalakukko fish pie is a well-known local delicacy from the province of Savo. The marketplace in Kuopio has caravans selling these round, loaf-shaped pasties filled with fish and fatty pork. Vendace, perch or rainbow trout and pork are wrapped in a rye pastry. Baked slowly at low heat, the fish will be as soft as sardines and the filling nice and juicy .

When it comes to coffee, Finns are heavy consumers, drinking more coffee than any other nation in the world. You will always be offered coffee in any home you visit, as well as pulla, a sweet yeast bread that is often homemade - or at least baked at home.

Rye crispbread is an essential part of Finnish army life and of the family diet even today.

Soft, round, flat loaves with a hole in the middle, which in the old days were stored on horizontal poles under the ceiling in farmhouses, are made from rye flour using a fermentation process.

The thin rye crispbread often known as Finn Crisp has a slightly sour taste resulting from lactic fermentation, and is a popular export item. Finns were fans of whole grain breads long before health foods became the fad. Barley, whole wheat and oat breads, rolls, flat breads and cracked wheat breads all have their local variations. The range of different types of bread just seems to keep growing, with new shapes and seasonings being developed all the time. Home baking is popular and bread machines are in constant use.

Specialties from southwestern Finland and the archipelago include the soursweet loaf and malt bread. Island-baked bread is dark in color and its northern counterpart may also have blood as an ingredient.

When in Finland, be sure to sample:

  • freshwater fish and roe
  • smoked and smoke-cured products
  • game
  • mushrooms, especially the ceps [Boletus edulis]
  • rye and multigrain breads and karjanlanpiirakka rye pasties
  • sweet home-made pulla wheat bread
  • berry desserts from berries picked in the forests

Search within the site
Advanced search >
Register free to receive our official newsletter
Sign up
Subscribe to our free RSS feeds:
Get the daily and monthly recipe posts automatically added to your newsreader.
Sign up