Finnish Salmon Chowder

7 Nov

Hurray! We’re fast approaching my 90-day binge fest favorite season of the year. Besides the fact that it’s widely accepted that legs don’t need daily shaving anymore, Winter is practically a free season pass to sweet candy, luscious pies, roasted turkeys with all the fixings, bottomless spiced hot chocolates and all kinds of other culinary deliciousness… Not to forget domestic fabulousness like plaid flannel pajamas, wickedly cool decorations, the year’s best movie releases, crackling hearths and overall homely splendor. Let’s admit it, Winter is like the ‘Hyacinth Bouquet’ of all seasons.

Back when I was still gainfully employed for an adventure travel company in Belgium, a handful of co-workers & I got invited on a 5-day dog-sledding ‘trek’ through the great outdoors in Lapland, in the very Northern tip of Finland… We flew from Brussels to Ivalo and then onwards to Kittala, located at the rim of the Arctic Circle. Upon arrival at our destination, we stopped at what looked like a log cabin and were greeted by a Finnish guide who beckoned us to come inside his ‘mud’ room and promptly fitted us for a bright red thermal monkey suit.


We were instructed to wear this one-piece hooded suit so that only our nose and eyes were exposed. The staff was very particular about making sure we understood the importance of covering up as much as we could. We were told the hairs inside our nose would freeze, but we were reassured to not panic since our own body temperature would prevent our nostrils from freezing shut. Great! We were warned the moisture in the corner of our eyes may – or may not – freeze, causing your eyelid(s) to freeze and get stuck. “When this happens, place your gloved hand over your eye and wait to defrost”, they said, “don’t pull your eyelids, as it may cause injury”. It was -55C outside (minus 67F. MINUS, people!!!). Factor in the wind chill, and I’ve never been happier to carry 50-odd pounds of excess fat on my frame than I was then. As the days progressed, we’d mock and laugh at each other whenever an eye would freeze half shut, and we had a running tally of bets to see who’d be the first one to have both eyes freeze shut. It sounds terrible, but I’ve never laughed harder.

Those 5 days were without a doubt the most beautiful, exhilarating and eventful trip I have ever taken. Besides the fact that one of my colleagues fell madly in love with our Finnish guide and shocked us all by impulsively deciding on day 5 to not return to her husband in Belgium, we ‘yeehaw’-ed our own dog sleds through the most magnificent Winter wonderland ever…


…and we stopped to visit Santa Claus Village.


That’s right, I’ve been to Santa Claus in the Polar Circle. Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it. I know you’re envious! On a side note, Peggy Sue did eventually return to Belgium to resume her marriage, but we never got any detail as to what happened exactly.

Between seeing a nightly spectacle of Northern lights and eating the best cedar plank salmon I have ever tasted, I have many fond memories of that trip, but a foodie favorite of mine was ‘lohikeitto’. It’s a creamy concoction of salmon, leeks and potatoes, and it tastes great so good with toasted rye bread on a cold winter’s day. It’s Finland’s answer to New England clam chowder, really.


Finnish Salmon Chowder
(also known as Lohikeitto… Adapted from a few recipes online)
– 3 Tbsp olive oil
– 1 leek, chopped (white and light green part only)
– 2 carrots, diced
– 3 cups of fish broth or stock
– 1 bay leaf
– 3/4 lbs potatoes, cubed and peeled
– 3/4 lbs salmon filet, skinned, de-boned and cut into small chunks
– 3/4 cup cream (or half & half)
– 1 Tbsp cornstarch (up to 1.5 Tbsp if you’d like the broth thick) + 1 Tbsp of water
– 1 Tbsp butter
– salt and pepper
– fresh dill for topping (or parsley, if you’re dill-hater)

Heat the olive in a large saucepan and sauté the leek until softened. Add 3 cups of fish stock and the bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and carefully add the potatoes. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender.
Add the salmon and simmer for five minutes. Add the cream and stir to mix. Make a cornstarch slurry with the cornstarch and 1 Tbsp of water, stirring to dissolve the cornstarch. Add to the soup and simmer until the soup has thickened.
Add the butter and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with plenty of fresh parsley or dill. Serve with a squeeze of lemon, if desired.




15 Responses to “Finnish Salmon Chowder”

  1. Darla blume November 7, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I enjoy reading your blog, the pepper jelly tastes good even though it doesn’t look like yours and I’m going to try the cranberry sauce ~ hopefully it will too.


  2. Miriam November 7, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Hmmmm…Another new one I need to try. Did you know that you post awesome recipes ? By the way, can you recommend where to get really good tasting potatoes. That is one of the things I always look so forward to when visiting the Motherland – Germany (we actually say Fatherland in German). I came across some large Fingerling potatoes at our farmers market. They are better than the stuff they sell at Ralphs. But it’s still not the delicious buttery taste I get from European potatoes.


    • thehungrybelgian November 7, 2013 at 11:08 am #

      Miriam, I work for a company that is an affiliate from Dertour & Meyer’s Welt Reisen. My office is filled with Germans and German goodies. Yum! 😉


      • thingsmysonssay November 7, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

        I used to work for that same company many many moons ago 🙂 . By the way, both posts are from me. SOmehow I got kicked out, had to log in and lost the first post (So I thought). Anyways, Yukons are alright, but still not the same. Miriam


      • thehungrybelgian November 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

        I agree… I’m missing my Belgian “nieuwe aardappeltjes” too. Then again, I do not miss 275 days of grey skies and rain. 😉


  3. thingsmysonssay November 7, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    I have to try this. Did you know that you post awesome recipes?
    By the way, can you recommend a place to get good tasting potatoes? I miss the buttery tasting potatoes from Germany. Can’t find anything close here.


    • thehungrybelgian November 7, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      Thanks for the gratuitous flattery. It’s always nice hearing people like my recipes. I usually buy Yukon Gold potatoes from my local farmer’s market, or baby Yukon’s or Fingerlings from Trader Joe’s. Nothing compares to the buttery potatoes you so easily find in Europe, but Yukon Golds come close. If you can find “new” potatoes (and they will be marked as such), then those are even better!


  4. Two Healthy Kitchens November 8, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    You have the most amazing adventures and stories! What a fantastic trip! And Santa in the Polar Circle!?!? Beyond awesome! I have a freezer full of gorgeous salmon my husband caught on a recent trip to British Columiba, and I think my family would really, really love this chowder! Thanks for the fun story and the great recipe! 😀


  5. Violeta October 25, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    Waaaww, I just made this soup and was really delicious! I was looking last night for recipe for pie with salmon cream and potatoes but in the search I got also this recipe and am so happy we tried it. Thank you from mu husband and I 🙂


    • thehungrybelgian October 26, 2014 at 6:28 am #

      Thank you, Violeta. I’m so happy you liked it!


      • Violeta October 27, 2014 at 8:37 am #



  6. Susan Kasendi September 16, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    I made the Finnish salmon soup. It was so delicious and definitely comfort food. The broth I used was mushroom and I didn’t add any carrots. The list of ingredients mentioned carrots but the method did not include them. I don’t think carrots should be part of this soup. I didn’t add any thickener. It was wonderful just being brothy and not starchy. My husband is learning to be a fish lover. This simple soup helped enormously. Thank you for a great recipe. My 70 year old husband says it’s a keeper!


    • thehungrybelgian September 16, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

      Thanks for the nice note, Susan! It’s a staple in my house. So simple, yet so satisfying. I flip between adding carrots and not, I simply forgot to mention them in the method. I also add leeks sometimes. It’s a versatile dish. Thanks again. Loved reading your experience.

      Liked by 1 person


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