Suomeksi (in Finnish), lohi means salmon and joki means river…
(as an aside: the finnish ‘j’ is pronounced as an english ‘y’, so it sounds like yolkey vs. jokey). Being accurate with pronunciation kills my pun, but it may be worth it. We’ll all learn a bit of Finnish by the time this is all over…
Up in the northern portion of Finland is a region known as Sápmi (formerly known as Lapland) which covers not only Finland but also Russia, Sweden, and Norway. It is home to Finland’s most important salmon rivers, the Tenojoki (furthest northeast corner at the border of Norway and the Russian Kola Peninsula; the 79lb world’s record Atlantic salmon was caught there in 1929) and Tornionjoki (northwestern border with Sweden)… For centuries fish have been integral to the Sámi (people of Sápmi) and to the Finns further south. Check out this incredible 17th century Sámi mythology shaman drum!
It’s motifs include game birds, fur animals and, of course, fish. I’m no archeologist or anthropologist, but it looks like this image could be almost a map to special salmon pools in the two rivers that split from the horizontal line in the top third of the drum skin… follow the line of the river that runs down and to the right and you’ll see they’ve marked the second of the pools with some kind of structure or Sámi ‘innukshuk’. I dream that one day I’ll discover and try my hand at fly fishing in one of those special streams!
Finland’s retail supply of salmon comes from this area, either by virtue of those prolific rivers and other tributaries, or via trucks full of Norwegian salmon caught or farmed in the North Atlantic. Oulu’s location makes its residents incredibly fortunate beneficiaries of the freshest salmon in Finland. In many ways, we really do feel like we’ve won the food lottery here. Fresh seasonal food is available for our purchase at local shops, and Finnish ravintolat (restaurants) across the country pride themselves on locally sourced, seasonal, farm-to-table choices. So when my grocery trip yesterday resulted in uuden sadon peruna (new crop of potatoes) and a beautiful lohifilee (salmon fillet), I had to carefully consider how to honor these ingredients, perhaps as the maker of the shaman drum might have done? I know… Lohikeitto! Salmon Soup.
Lohikeitto is ubiquitous here, yet somehow still very special. Each place offers their variation, and the subtle flavors change based on time of year, type of potatoes and/or other veg, the salmon and stock used, cream vs. milk, and the finishing herbs. One of our favorite local places to have this soup is at Ravintola Toripolliisi, at the corner of Oulu’s summer marketplace and the statue of the “pudgey po po”, as we refer to him. More on the marketplace in a future post.
Here is the Lohikeitto recipe I’m using for dinner today:
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 leek, sliced (rinse the leek pieces as they can be sandy)
- 4 cups fish stock(can use water, or even chicken stock)
- 1/2 lb potatoes, cubed. I’m using less, just a few tender new potatoes and some cauliflower to extend the potato feel without the starch.
- 1 carrot, sliced
- ~ 1lb salmon fillet (I’m using 400 grams), de-boned, de-skinned and cut into chunks
- 1 cup milk / heavy cream
- fresh dill
- salt and pepper
- Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add the sliced leek and saute until translucent.
- Add the carrot, cauliflower and potatoes. A colleague of Tammy’s also uses Zucchini here. Saute a bit.
- Add stock or water, bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat.
- Add the salmon chunks and the cream, and cook for about 8 minutes more, to boil.
- Turn off the heat, add the dill, salt and pepper to taste.
- Close the lid and wait for another 10 minutes.
It should come out as a creamy, mostly brothy, chunky soup. Not thick chowder-ish style. Serve a bowl with some hyvä suomalainen tumma ruisleipä ja voi (good Finnish dark rye bread and butter). Delish!
** Tired of my terrible puns yet? please say no…. I can’t help myself 😉