THE ANNUAL CRAYFISH PARTY IS THE CULINARY HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR FOR MANY FINNS. ANY UNNECESSARY SNOBBERY IS ABANDONED AS THE CRAYFISH ARE ENJOYED WITH BARE HANDS AND BY SUCKING AND SLURPING THE DELICIOUS MEAT FROM OUT OF THE RED SHELLS. ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL CRAYFISH PARTY ARE A MERRY MOOD AND SCHNAPPS SONGS.
Why Crayfish and When Are the Parties?
The tradition of arranging a party dedicated to feasting on boiled crayfish originates from Swedish and Russian high society, who at the beginning of the 20th century indulged in the abundantly available crayfish when visiting Finnish resorts. Later, crayfishing season was limited to a couple of months to prevent over-fishing which led to the development of crayfish as a sought-after delicacy.
Crayfish parties are usually held in August or September to mark the end of summer. The relaxed and cheerful atmosphere at the dinners is enhanced by drinking songs and schnapps. Schnapps songs often have humorous contemporary lyrics that appear to be about anything and everything – from appreciation of the magnificent crayfish to the beauty of Finnish women.
How to Eat Crayfish
When eating crayfish, strict table manners are set aside. Only a small portion of the body of a crayfish is edible, so sucking and slurping is encouraged to fully enjoy the tasty meat and juices found inside the crayfish. Eating is done with one’s bare hands with the help of only a small knife for breaking the hard crayfish shell and claws. To protect clothing, it is advisable to tuck a napkin into collars or necklines or to wear a crayfish bib.
The decorations duplicate the theme color: brilliant red. The party may be set up outdoors or in gardens, patios or balconies, lit by candlelight and colorful lanterns. The aromatic herb crown dill is an important decoration that can also be tasted in many of the dishes. Chanterelle soup, potato salad, herring, and smoked fish are seasonal delicacies typically served with the crayfish.
CATCH YOUR OWN DINNER OR JUST SIT DOWN TO A SUMPTUOUS MEAL
Consider an after-hours catching adventure. With the currently plentiful stock of crayfish, you may catch a full meal in just a few hours.
Country holiday destinations organize crayfishing trips, with dinner prepared from your own catch. For information, contact Uotila Villas and Holiday Cottages, www.uotilanlomamokit.com and Villa Hepolahti, www.villahepolahti.com.
Crayfish featured on Finnish restaurants from end of July to beginning of September
Many restaurants ask customers to pre-order their crayfish dinner a day or two in advance.
The most popular crayfish restaurant in Finland is the idyllic villa NJK in Helsinki which serves over 30 000 crayfish each year. NJK is located on the small Valkosaari Island and is a 3-minute ferry ride from the Helsinki city center.
Restaurant NJK, www.royalravintolat.com/njk
Restaurant Sipuli in Helsinki will be hosting a special Crayfish Festival on August 26 – 28, 2009. You can also enjoy your crayfish to live jazz music on August 20th and 27th at Kulosaaren Casino.
Kulosaaren Casino, www.royalravintolat.com/kulosaari
Restaurant Sipuli, www.royalravintolat.com/sipuli
Ranked number 12 on the 2009 list of ”The 50 Best Restaurants in Finland,” Restaurant Näsinneula in Tampere serves crayfish on top of the highest observation tower in the Nordic countries with a marvelous view of Lake Näsi.
Restaurant Näsinneula, www.sarkanniemi.fi/www/ravintola
Restaurant Rocca, located by the River Aura in Turku, serves gourmet crayfish meals as well as traditional boiled crayfish during the season.
Restaurant Rocca, www.rocca.fi
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