What is Kalakukko All About?
It's a traditional way of transporting your lunch, dinner, snack or whatever, wherever you are going. The brilliant part is that it combines all of the necessary ingredients in one handy package. Kalakukko has its origins in the villages of eastern Finland. The idea for it arose because in times past, it was usual to work so far from home that it didn't make sense to go back for lunch.
The outside of a kalakukko resembles dark bread. The crust is usually about 1cm thick. Beneath the crust there is a filling made out of fish and bacon. There are many different sorts of kalakukko, which vary depending on what kind of fish is used. The most common types are muikkukukko, made from vendace (a small tasty relative of salmon) and ahvenkukko made from perch. Some unenlightened souls use potatoes, Swedish turnip, mushrooms or meat to fill their kukkos.
Where to Get Kalakukko
For the true kalakukko experience, you should visit Kuopio, Finland. Hanna Partanen's bakery there sells them. They're freshly baked every weeknight between 8 and 9 on Kasarminkatu 15, just 500 metres from the marketplace.
Kalakukko can be bought easily from most towns in east Finland. Check the market hall in whichever town you are visiting. The further you go from Kuopio the more difficult it becomes to find one. The west and south coasts of Finland are well known for their poor kalakukko selection.
How to Eat Kalakukko
After finding one, place it flat side down on top of any surface stable for cutting. Then simply slice it like cake, but be careful since the crust can be surprisingly hard. After that, it's up to you. You can use a plate, fork and knife or eat it with your hands. Kalakukko can be eaten cold or hot.
If You Can't Find One, Make One
If you can't find kalakukko you can make it yourself:
- 1kg of fish, such as vendace or perch, or any other fish
- 150 - 250g bacon
- 2-3 teaspoons salt
For the crust, knead the ingredients together into a tight and tough dough. Make an ovoid disc that is about 1cm thick in the middle and thinner at the edges. Scatter rye flour in the middle of the disc. Pile cleaned fish and bacon in layers in the middle of the disc and add some salt now and then. Use the sides of the disc to cover the filling. Use water and flour to smooth the surface. Bake in an oven (200-225°C) until the kalakukko gets some colour. Remove it, and wrap it inside aluminum foil. Put it back into an oven for 4-6 hours (100-150°C). After taking the kalakukko out of the oven, cover it well so that crust doesn't get too hard.
Other Things Concerning Kalakukko
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.
The European Union has added kalakukko to the Protected Designation of Origin list. Only true kalakukko are made in Finland, in the same way that, officially, Parma ham can only be made in Parma and Champagne can only be made in Champagne.