A guide to the cuisine of Lapland
When you’re visiting Lapland, you’re going to be impressed with the down to earth mannerisms of the people, and that’s a characteristic that carries over into the way they eat and drink. Although Lapp cuisine takes its cues in many ways from the Scandinavian nations that share this special part of the world, there’s an iconic flavour and distinctive appeal to the meals that they enjoy here.
The food of Lapland is the result of generations of intrinsic knowledge, with recipes passed down lineages by word of mouth, that only began to be put into books comparatively recently. That homegrown talent shines through in the flavours you’ll savour in Lapland, where meals look as at home on a classy restaurant plate as they do by the campfire.
Lapland’s food is in many ways uniquely connected to the dramatic landscapes that produce it, and the fruits of nature have always been appreciated by the people – quite literally so where berries are concerned.
Local favourites like cloudberries, cranberries and bilberries are well known for their flavours as much as their high impact positive boost to health and the immune system.
One dish in which berries are used in a superb way is leipajuusto, or bread cheese, which is actually a soft cheese that’s fried and garnished with berries in such a way as to be a sweet dessert. It’s considered the regional food of Rovaniemi, so make sure you tuck in when you visit.
Feasting on fish
Both freshwater and saltwater fish make up many a meal in Lapland, especially in Rovaniemi, where the Kemijoki and Ounasjoki rivers meet. A long tradition of anglers who brave the elements to keep their families and communities fed has translated into a rich variety of fish-based meals on Lapp menus today, including arctic char, whitefish, pike and cod.
Fried, smoked and steamed fish dishes are delights that you’ll frequently find, although it’s salmon soup that’s the most traditional, to the point that for many people it’s the iconic Lapland dinner.
Lapland’s relationship with the land means that game dishes and reindeer steaks make distinctive and flavoursome additions to many menus, although harmony with the natural world is at the top of the agenda.
Even so, the cuisine you can expect to find ranges from the sublime to the surprising, with bear steaks probably being among the most unexpected items you’ve ever read on a menu. Elk is also considered a delicacy in the region, although aficionados of those rustic game fowl flavours will enjoy the dishes prepared using grouse and wood grouse.
Reindeer steaks and soups
However, it’s reindeer that many visitors to Lapland are the first to try, not least since it’s so easily found in the restaurants and taverns around the region. On the simpler side of the scale, a succulent stew made from reindeer meat is a hearty treat for many a Laplander, and equally appreciated by tourists for its warmth and flavour.
Reindeer meat is known as lean, which makes its use in bithos, another kind of reindeer soup, pretty distinctive. The ratio of meat to water is higher compared to other soups, and the enrichment of the broth makes the technique speak for itself.
Of course, reindeer steaks are frequently found in Lapland, and just like the beef that we’re more familiar with, you’re able to enjoy it rare, medium-rare or well done to taste. It’s described as a similar flavour to venison, and if you’re out enjoying some fast food, don’t be surprised to find reindeer burgers to be a popular snack.