What Are You Smoking?
On a journey to Helinki, Finland, myMEGusta was reminded of how delicious and varied “preserved” salmon can be, in various guises.
The three best known are cold smoked (looks raw, tastes smoky, usually served sliced thin), hot smoked (looks cooked, also tastes smoky, usually served hot) and gravlax (marinated rather than smoked, raw, also usually served sliced thin).
One fabulous lunch was seasonal simplicity: Hot smoked salmon on bed of mashed potatoes, with leeks and morels. The smoky flavor of the extremely moist fish was a perfect complement to the vegetables. It is ubiquitous in Helsinki, although not so easy to find stateside, with the exception of Seattle. In this Scandinavian city, there are hot smoked fish stands in the markets, and even a lady selling potato cakes and smoked salmon from a boat.
Another took an entirely different turn to open sandwiches, one spicy crayfish and the other a rosette shaped arrangement of cold smoked salmon on rye bread at the Old Market Hall. The fishmonger E Eriksson is one of Scandinavia’s oldest, and still a family run business, with a massive, multinational business in addition to the charming stalls in the market, including the oyster bar where you can enjoy a good French Chablis with your impeccably fresh lunch.
It was dismaying on one occasion when a lovely outdoor café on the Esplanade had a pretty pedestrian menu (and it was a Sunday, with not a lot of choices), but then there was a twist on the usual Caesar Salad. In addition to the usual suspects to garnish the salad (chicken, shrimp, ho hum) smoked rainbow trout was an option, and what a treat is was! A close relative of salmon, this was juicy and a perfect complement to the lettuce mélange it rested on.
Another day, we’ll look at codfish, currently endangered in some areas, but once the mainstay of Europe and North America, whether fresh or preserved, which is the only way most people in warm climes ever tasted it. And, we’ll talk tuna: the perennial lunchbox staple in a can and the fresh treat that not so many years ago, wasn’t on the radar of anyone other than the (rare, in the old days) sushi lover.
Your story is very timely because we just returned from a cruise along the coast of Norway all the way up to Spitzbergen. The good news is that cod is still plentiful in the eastern part of the North Atlantic. Wild and farmed salmon is also available prepared in so many ways you describe so well. The Fishmarket in Bergen is a sight so see. Located in a stylish modern glass building it is combined with a small sit down area. There is a huge selection of fish and seafood, ready to eat or to prepare at home from prawns to live king crabs, from sea urchins to many varieties of fresh and cured salmon. It is paradise for seafood lovers!