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Contemporary Finnish cuisine: Where East meets West with a worldly twist

Ever since the Middle Ages, culinary novelties have come to Finland from both directions: From the west came the Swedish smorgasbord served buffet-style with various hot and cold dishes. From the east came the Russian equivalent, the zakuska table. Of course, both have forever influenced the Finnish breakfast.

Typical Finnish Breads
Karin Leperi

Nowadays, the gastronomic experience in Finland reflects not only a convergence of the east and west influences, but also incorporates inspirations from the world over – resulting in a uniquely Finnish cuisine that is inspirational, seasonal, and bursting with flavors from the land and the sea.

Fish, game, mushrooms and berries figure heavily into culinary ingredients used in Finnish dishes ranging from teaser appetizers to delectable desserts. Fresh fish is available all year-round and includes favorites such as salmon, whitefish, perch, and zander – a freshwater pikeperch. Crayfish parties during late summer evenings are legendary with the Finnish people, consisting of boiled and chilled crayfish served along with bottles of ice-cold schnapps. Game such as reindeer, elk, and wildfowl are easily found on menus, often accompanied by foraged mushrooms such as spring morels and wild chanterelles from the forest. A favorite with many are the Finnish berries such as strawberries, bilberries, raspberries, lingonberries, cranberries, cloudberries, sea buckthorn and arctic brambleberries. Most are wild and also foraged in the forest.

Since Finnish cuisine embraces seasonality to ensure fresh flavors, why not use the calendar to help make the best choices in tasting the best of what Finland has to offer?

January: burbot and roe with blinies
February: Runeberg tarts, pea soup and laskiaispulla (Shrove buns)
March-April: lamb, mämmi (Finnish Easter pudding), pasha
May: perch, whitefish, pike-perch, sima (mead) and tippaleivät (May Day fritters), nettles
June-July: new potatoes, salmon, sausage, herring, strawberries, blueberries, cloudberries
August: root vegetables, crayfish, wild duck, chanterelles, apples
September: Baltic herring, vendace, hare, trumpet chanterelles, lingonberry
October-November: lamb, cabbage, elk, reindeer, goose
December: ham, rosolli salad, root vegetable casseroles, ginger biscuits, Christmas pies, glögi (mulled wine)