The cuisine of Finland is similar to other Scandinavian cuisines with the primary difference being a stronger desire for foods that are not sweet. In the early days the climate of this country caused fresh fruits and vegetables to be hard to come by for about nine months each year. This led to dependence on potatoes, dark rye breads, turnips and dairy products. There were very few spices available except salt, fresh herbs could only be found during the summer.
Traditional Swedish rye bread often is full of spices and syrups, but the rye bread of Finland is not sweetened and is even a bit bitter. In addition to the strong Swedish influence on Finnish cuisine, German and Russian foods also influenced dishes in Finland. Finnish cuisine may not be well known outside of Europe's northernmost reaches, but diners in the know are starting to pay attention to the Scandinavian country's fresh and unusual cooking.
Modern Finnish cuisine combines traditional country fare and haute cuisine with contemporary continental style cooking. Fish and meat play a prominent role in traditional Finnish dishes from the western part of the country, while the dishes from the eastern part have traditionally included various vegetables and mushrooms. Mushrooms were introduced to the dining tables of the western side as late as WW2 by refugees from Karelia. In the modern Finnish kitchen, dishes are lighter, smaller and generally contain several different vegetables.
The main feature of Finnish cuisine is simple and nourishing home food with the obligatory presence of fresh bread on the table.
Here are some traditional Finnish dishes:
- Cabbage rolls
- Game food - moose, deer, grouse, duck, hare etc. Rarely attainable in restaurants. Common amongst those whose hobby is hunting.
- Cold smoked fish
- Cold smoked salmon
- Cold smoked Perch
- Hernekeitto - pea soup
- Mashed potato
- Lihapullat - Finnish meatballs
- Pickled Herring (usually with small potatoes)
- Smoked fish (many types of fish, like salmon, zander, pike, perch and Baltic herring)
- Smoked ham or beef
Some regional dishes are:
- Kalakukko in Savo
- Karelian pasties from Karelia, also popular elsewhere
- Karelian Stew/Hot Pot from Karelia, also popular elsewhere
- Klimppisoppa from Ostrobothnia, flour dumping soup
- Mustamakkara from Tampere, blood dumpling soup
- Pepu (a cooked dish made of water and flour, usually in a ratio of 1:3)
- Rossypottu from Oulu
- Sauteed reindeer - traditional in Lapland