Due to the harsh climate, traditional Finnish cuisine included many grains and berries. Today contemporary Finns enjoy a wide variety of modern foods typical of Western Europe. Hunting and fishing are popular in Finland, with fish, moose and deer plentiful, but restaurants also serve reindeer.
Finland contains over 60,000 lakes and over 2850 miles of seashore. Despite the high latitude, most of Finland is 18 degrees warmer than other areas at that latitude because of the warm Gulf Stream. In the two months of Finnish summer, the sun never sets, bringing the average temperature as high as 86 degrees F. Due to these factors, fresh foods and fresh fish & seafood are prevalent throughout the country.
Finnish cuisine appeals to both the eye and the taste buds, and has something special for every month of the year. In Finland, design textiles and tableware are an important element in the art of good eating.
Supermarkets and the country's many indoor and outdoor markets give an authentic picture of eating in Finland. A modern Finn shops for food in a self-service store, filling up the shopping trolley with a few days', or even a whole week's supplies: lots of bread, lots of milk products such as yogurt, milk, viili, cheese, cold cuts and sausage.
Convenience foods are also popular; even children can heat them up in the microwave.
Firm favorites at the supermarket meat counter include roasting cuts, diced meat, pork chops and mince. Meatballs are probably at the top of the 'best loved dishes' list in Finland. Chicken is another popular choice, as is trout; often cultivated on fish farms, which has boosted fish consumption figures in recent years.
Salmon is used for making soup, or is grilled, fried or served in a casserole with sliced potato or as a filling in savory pasties (originally Russian, kulibyaka).
The quality conscious shop in indoor market halls or outdoor markets in just about every town in Finland. The market is a local attraction shown off to friends and visitors. Many heads of state have tasted smoked Baltic herring straight from a fisherman's boat moored at the quay by Helsinki market square or sipped early morning coffee with a doughnut or a deep fried meat pasty at a market stall.
Local and seasonal varieties abound at these markets. 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 autumn speciality at the Pori market are grilled lampreys, while Pieksamaki and Oulu both have their own versions of rieska flatbread.
North Karelia is the birthplace of Karelian patties. 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 their shape was once described by a visiting tourist.
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.
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This page modified January 2007
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