Lapland’s food culture is directly linked to its pristine nature, and Rovaniemi is a great place to explore the fresh produce of northern forests and waters.
Pure ingredients from nature to your plate
Lappish cuisine is simple and rugged, just like the landscapes it stems from. Fresh seasonal ingredients play a key role in preparation, and bringing out their original flavours is held in high regard. In Rovaniemi, Lappish food tastes equally delicious in a fine dining setting as well as by a campfire in the wilderness.
The restaurants and markets of Rovaniemi offer a world of flavours
Rovaniemi has a budding restaurant scene that offers everything from fine to casual dining. For culinary excursions into the local world of flavours, the seasonal Lappi á la carte and RovaniemiMenu available in various restaurants around town are good starting points.
For tasty, locally produced souvenirs, seasonal food markets and shops in Rovaniemi’s shopping centres are the places to go.
Reindeer - the cattle of Lapland
Reindeer husbandry is a form of livelihood that dates back centuries in Lapland, and the animal is an essential part of Lappish cuisine. Sautéed reindeer served with mashed potatoes and fresh lingonberries or lingonberry jam is the most classic dish, but no parts of reindeer go unused: the meat is served as fillets, cold cuts, jerky, mince and sausages, just to name a few examples.
Each spring, Rovaniemi hosts the Reindeer Chef of the Year (“Vuoden Porokokki”) competition that draws renowned chefs from around Finland to a cook-off for the esteemed title.
Game - keeping the natural balance
The forests of Lapland are teeming with wildlife, and the natural areas around Rovaniemi are no different. Game birds such as capercaillie, willow grouse and black grouse are hunters’ favourites and make for mouth-watering dishes. Waterfowls, of which mallard is the most typical, are equally popular during the hunting season. The kings of the forest are elk and bear: both are eaten, the former considerably more often than the latter.
Hunting in Finland is regulated and based on respecting nature, and Finnish hunters recognize their responsibility by adhering to the rules.
Fish - fresh from rivers and lakes
Lapland is famous for its pure waters and the amount of fish in them, making it a popular destination among fishermen. Rovaniemi is situated at the confluence of two rivers, the Ounasjoki and the Kemijoki, and consequently has long fishing traditions. Fishing trips are available for visitors in the summer, as are ice fishing trips in the winter.
Salmon, trout, pike-perch, whitefish, arctic char, grayling and vendace are some of the fish commonly found on plates in the north. The iconic fish dish of Lapland is salmon soup, available in several restaurants in Rovaniemi.
Berries - superfoods of forests and bogs
From late July until September, quite a few cars are parked on the sides of roads around Rovaniemi and Lapland; that’s locals gone berry picking in the forests and on the bogs. The cloudberry is the crown jewel of Lapland’s berries, but bilberry (northern blueberry), lingonberry and cranberry are all healthy and desired catches.
Besides eating them fresh with main courses and as desserts, berries are commonly used for juices, jams and sauces, and these days, even to make liqueur. Berries and berry products are available in many shops in Rovaniemi.
On the side - root vegetables
The most common side dish in Lapland is definitely the potato prepared in a number of ways. Surprisingly to some, Lapland has its own potato variety, the oval-shaped almond potato. Other typical root vegetables used in side dishes are carrots and turnips. The herb angelica found in Lapland is used as flavour for pies and ice cream.
Local specialities in Rovaniemi
A definite must eat on any trip to Rovaniemi is the dessert known as “bread cheese” (“leipäjuusto”), a type of soft cheese fried after initial preparation. Served with fresh cloudberries or cloudberry jam, it is a hearty dessert with a distinct, sweet taste. Some call it squeaky cheese due to the sound it makes when chewed.
Another local staple is soft barley flatbread called “rieska”, usually enjoyed with butter. Several types of sweet pastries are also characteristic to Lapland, one of the most recognizable being the “kampanisu” that directly translates to “comb scone” due to its comb-like shape.