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The people have spoken - rye bread is the national food

Finns were asked to name their picks for Finland's official national food and the results are in: the winner is rye bread. Karelian stew came in a very close second place, and fried fish and mashed potatoes was third.

Ruis- ja vaaleita leipiä taikinatonkan vieressä.
Image: Eeva Pentikäinen / Yle

Nearly 50,000 people were given the chance to vote for what they think of as the most typical, "national" food of Finland last autumn. Just over a quarter (25.7%) chose the dark hearty bread as the food most typical of the Finnish diet. It is a regular item on shopping lists - 70% of Finns buy rye bread on a weekly basis.

A close runner-up (24.7% of the vote) was Karelian stew, a combination of pork and beef, seasoned with salt and black peppercorns, often prepared with the addition of carrots, onion and root vegetables. Karelian pasties, fried fish and mashed potatoes, and pea soup were all highly ranked.

In the first round of the voting, around 10,000 members of the public proposed over 1,000 different dishes for the title of the national food. A jury of food sector experts narrowed that down to 12 finalists.

In addition to the dishes already mentioned, the final list included cured fish, fish soup, liver casserole, bilberry pie, the Easter delicacy mämmi (sweetened malt porridge), pizza and a fermented milk product known as viili.

The jury’s task was to ensure that the finalists represented a wide range of the national food culture in terms of ingredients, preparation, and even stories. The jury’s own favourite was fish soup.

The vote for the national food of Finland was organised by the ELO Foundation for the Promotion of Finnish Food Culture, in cooperation with the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners MTK, and the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

The national food jury has now suggested that the 28th of February, which is Finnish Culture Day (also known as Kalevala Day), should also be named as a day of food culture.

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