This year my husband and I decided to settle in Finland. In the early spring, we moved to Helsinki, one of the greenest capital cities in Europe with greenery covering well over 40 % of the city’s land surface. One thing we love to do is wandering around in the city. It is so clean and fresh everywhere. Another exciting factor for me is that Helsinki is surrounded by the Baltic sea! I love fresh seafood. I love going to a local fish market, pick up some fresh seafood of the day and cook it in a way that suits it best.
I come from an island country, Taiwan. Seafood plays an important role in the Taiwanese cuisine. Traditionally, a family of 4 or 5 people will share 4 dishes along with rice. The dishes must be served together, not course by course. As far back as I can remember, we have always had at least one seafood dish on the diner table. Most of the time it’s fish, squid, cuttlefish or clam. Shrimp and crab dishes are less frequent but not rare either. For us islanders, seafood means fish, crustacean and mollusc dishes.
Maybe I got the impression from reading about Norway, that I imagined there must also be various seafood options in Finland. Only after a while, I realized fish are the clear favorite in the Finnish seafood culture. Here the word seafood is almost synonymous to fish, be that sea fish or lake fish. (By the way, I love muikku! The first Finnish word I remember how to spell and pronounce.) Fresh crustaceans and molluscs can only be found in the market occasionally, and are mostly unshelled or cut already. They don’t seem to be a very popular choice for Finns. My experience tells me not to buy frozen seafood. Also, I rarely purchase processed or prepared ones (like cooked, unshelled or cut). So I haven’t really got to taste too many varieties of seafood since I moved here.
One lucky day, I surprisingly found a bag of cockles in Ruoholahti Citymarket. I was excited and asked if the cockles had been purged of sand beforehand. The sales clerks at the seafood counter didn’t seem to understand my question, and finally admitted they have never cooked cockles, so they don’t know the process. Ok, maybe they don’t like them? Anyway, I still bought 1kg of those cockles. That bag of cockles looked still able to survive for a day or two, worth to give it a shot!
Back home, after purging the sand out of the cockles, I steamed them with white wine. I used the soup extracted from the white wine and cockle juice to stir rice, onion, garlic, some tomato paste, and surely the cockles. It was so delicious! My husband loves all kinds of seafood as much as I do, and we were delighted and content with the fresh taste of the cockles. This is not always the case though. Another time we bought cockles from Stockmann and thought the taste simply wasn’t good. So it really seems to be by pure chance whether you get good fresh seafood ingredients in Finland or not.
So we don’t always find fresh seafood (other than fish) as we hope, but we keep on looking. Do you know where to buy fresh shrimps, crabs, clams, squids, and cuttlefish in Helsinki? How did you cook them?