Finnish cuisine: kalakukko

One of the most truly and typically Finnish dishes must be kalakukko – a fish-bacon mix slowly baked inside rye dough. We recently had some kalakukko again with Jeanne and Robert (visiting from London), and I realized that we’ve not yet blogged about this really unique food. For a short, and rather unusual, introduction to kalakukko check out this video (produced by Finland for the 2010 World Expo):

 


 

Kalakukko is originally from the Savo area of Finland, and Kuopio (the capital of the province of Pohjois-Savo / northern Savonia) is still considered by many as the place to find the best examples of the food. Kalakukko can vary between places and cooks, but follows the same basic pattern: small fish and pieces of salted pork (and/or bacon) are cooked for 4 – 7 hours inside a rye-wheat crust. Once out of the oven, the kalakukko is wrapped up and allowed to sweat – this softens the crust. Any small fish can be used, but traditionally it is either vendace or perch (Wikipedia tells me the latter is favoured in the south of Savo, the latter in the north; in Helsinki we’ve only seen the former). You can find some receipes at Foodista and FinnGuide.

 

Inside a kalakukko

 

Kalakukko translated directly as “fish-rooster”, but (according to Wikipedia) “the archaic form of kukko is derived from the same root as kukkaro (purse)”. That makes some sense since some suggest that it developed as a lunch “pack” for workers who could not pop home for lunch – i.e. your whole meal wrapped up in an edible container (see here). Because an unopend kalakukko will apparently keep well it seems that it may still be a good food for travelling with.

 

A store-bought kalakukko, pre-wrapped in foil and ready for warming in the oven

 

And finally, an interesting tit-bit from the kalakukko entry at H2G2:

One of the most important aspects of the kalakukko experience is arguing with your friends or neighbours about them. The argument should concern things such as which fish makes the best filling, the best way to eat them, serving temperature and so on. You must form strong opinions about kalakukko and tell them to the world. It really doesn’t matter if someone wants to hear them or not.

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