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Lapland Finnish Lake District West Coast South Finland, Archipelago

   
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Fish dishes – organic Finnish food at its best

 

Photo: Pro Kala
Fried zander. Roe delicacies for the Christmas table. Pike-and-bacon medallions. Oven-baked Baltic herring. Fried vendace. Fried big perch and roe with leek and garlic will melt in your mouth. Burbot soup is the seasonal dish of mid-winter.
Fried zander.


The day's successful fishing trip is drawing to a close, the catch has been treated and the campfire is being kindled. In a little while, smoke starts to puff from the smoker and the delicious aroma of smoked fish makes the angler's companions lick their lips in anticipation. The summer night's feast is almost ready.

Photo: Petteri Kontila 
A freshly caught trout on a stick is as good as wilderness fare gets.
A freshly caught trout on a stick is as good as wilderness fare gets.
 

Fish dishes are an integral part of Finnish cuisine. The fruit of the waters provides both spiritual and physical nourishment. Finnish fishing culture has always been based on the idea that the catch will be prepared for a meal. Freshwater fish delicacies and crayfish represent Finnish cuisine at its best.

Fried perch is perhaps the most common fish dish in Finland. In the Savo region, the most common dish is fried vendace. Pike and zander are also delicious when fried.

The basic facilities of second homes include a campfire site, where you can smoke or grill fish. Feasting on smoked fish is an inseparable part of holidaying at a summer cottage and by the waters.

Photo: Jari Salonen 
A catch of whitefish being smoked.
A catch of whitefish being smoked.
 

Fish-smoking instructions for holidaymakers

If you have never smoked fish, here's a quick guide for smoking zander and big perch:
Place the scaled and gutted fish onto a bed of coarse sea salt for a couple of hours. Sprinkle salt generously on the skin of the fish and also apply some on the inside. Place some alder wood chips or sawdust on the bottom of the fish smoker such that it is almost covered. Shake the excess salt from the fish and place them onto the grill. Close the smoker lid, light the fire and smoke on a lowish flame for about half an hour.

The fish is ready when its skin is nicely golden-brown and the scales come off easily when you pull them with your fingers. The best way to guarantee success is to dry the fish off in the smoker for a moment at a low temperature before actually smoking.

Now you're all set to savour the food that will melt in your mouth.

Photo: Veli-Pekka Räty 
A roach-and-potato salad. Cyprinids can be used to conjure up tasty delicacies.
A roach-and-potato salad. Cyprinids can be used to conjure up tasty delicacies.
 

Light food Savo style

In the Finnish Lake District and especially in the Savo and North Karelia regions, traditional fish dishes include the Kalakukko fish pasty and fish soup prepared on the shore. The recipe for the fish soup from Savo is: a kilo of fish and a kilo of butter. If it still feels lean, you may add more butter as required. In areas rich in vendace, these fish are commonly used as raw ingredients for the above-mentioned soup and for many other delicious fish dishes.

Canned foods made from vendace, Baltic herring and cyprinids have become more popular over recent decades, as have various marinades. Small-scale manufacturers have also developed high-quality products based on perch, pike, whitefish, smelt and ruffe. These are sold at fish fairs, for example. Canned foods can also be found on shop shelves.

Photo: Pro Kala 
Oven-baked bream.
Oven-baked bream.

There are hundreds of traditional Finnish fish dishes. Popular delicacies include 'blazed' salmon and whitefish cooked on a block of wood on an open fire, fried arctic char, grilled trout, grayling on a stick, dry-cured raw whitefish and salmon (gravlax), char-grilled pike, vendace and whitefish broiled in a tin foil over an open fire, oven-baked bream, pike gratinated with cheese, cold-smoked salmon and burbot stew.

Souring used to be a common method of preparing fish, but modern anglers would hardly be able to force that particular delicacy down their throats.

Photo: Veli-Pekka Räty 
Pike soup made from cubed fillets. Adding bits of bread into the soup is a local tradition.
Pike soup made from cubed fillets. Adding bits of bread into the soup is a local tradition.
 

Soup from fresh fish

The aromas of fresh-caught fish are at their best in a fish soup. Tasty fish soup can be prepared from most species: for instance, burbot, pike, zander, perch, salmon, trout and vendace make for great ingredients for soup.

Crayfish parties on the warm nights of early autumn, when the soft twilight lingers long, are genial and social gatherings. The social aspect just keeps on increasing as everyone has a schnapps for every crayfish tail.

If you cannot or do not want to prepare your own catch, it's worth enquiring about fish dishes at local restaurants or fish shops found along the roads, or ask the cook at your accommodation site to prepare something delicious from your catch.

Finland's splendid fishing waters and fish dish traditions are regrettably under-represented on restaurant menus. In many cases, restaurant menus may only offer farmed salmon. Fortunately, there are also some exceptions.

Photo: Pro Kala 
Crayfish are enjoyed with toast at autumn crayfish parties.
Crayfish are enjoyed with toast at autumn crayfish parties.
 

TOP 5 fish dishes (it's OK to argue about tastes):

1. Perch fried in butter and seasoned with chopped dill
2. Vendace fresh out of the smoker
3. Fresh-caught arctic char, fried au naturel on the shore of a mountain lake
4. Zander soup cooked in cream
5. Crayfish cooked with dill – after the fourth schnapps

 
 
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