• Crayfish season in Helsinki begins in late July. (c) Jussi Hellsten/Visit Helsinki

Crayfish colour the summer evenings red

The highlight of the summer for many Finns is the opening of the crayfish season in late July. People dress up and head for the island and rooftop restaurants to savour the delicious crustaceans. But crayfish are not just for the finer folk, says Karl Huttunen, who sells crayfish for a living.

Karl Huttunen and his colleague Ville Maljanen have a good idea of local eating habits, as they both work behind the fish counter of the Itäkeskus Citymarket, which also supplies crayfish nationwide.

Many people like to prepare the crayfish themselves, but ready cooked crayfish are increasingly popular these days.

Traditional parties and new variations

The growing demand for crayfish is being met by a growing number of shops and restaurants in Helsinki.

“Traditional crayfish parties are once again very popular; people get together to savour these delicacies and wash them down with aquavit. It is also increasingly popular to use crayfish as ingredients and in different forms,” Karl and Ville tell us.

The new phenomenon of experimenting with crayfish can be seen in many local restaurants that serve them on the menu, but not in their traditional forms.

Even a small number of crayfish and provide a lot of flavour when you know how to make the most of them. For example, you can make a delicious broth by boiling the shells,” Huttunen says.

Enjoyed equally at the summer cottage and in restaurants

The two professionals believe that the best crayfish parties are those held at summer cottages among friends. Of course, sometimes it’s nice to dress up and go out to the fanciest restaurants in town. And there’s no fancier restaurant than the Savoy!

“The Savoy has the atmosphere, the views, the interior design and the heritage. It’s simply a great place to savour crayfish,” Karl Huttunen and Ville Maljanen agree.

If you are unfamiliar with technique and etiquette of eating crayfish the right way, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from the helpful staff at the Savoy.

“You really need local advice to learn how to eat crayfish and how often to toast with aquavit.”

Schnapps and drinking songs are all part of the culture, and you can certainly hear a lot of singing at the Savoy where up to 15,000 large crayfish are served during the season from July to late September. Still, this is a relatively small number compared to the crayfish king of Helsinki, NJK, which serves 60-70 thousand crayfish a season.

The crayfish season begins on 21 July, and the reservation books fill up quickly. Some of the island restaurants have special crayfish festivals at the start of the season, when lucky guests can eat crayfish at almost wholesale prices. So order your crayfish and songbook in advance, and get ready for some serious enjoyment!

Text: Mariaana Nelimarkka

See also: 

Eat in Helsinki

Culinary events in Helsinki

Updated 12/07/2016