Food Lapland – Northern cuisine

What is typical food in the North? It is described as simple but full of fresh flavors from nature. The purity of the northern wilderness will be included in the meals. Another sidenote is that they work with fresh seasonal ingredients in the preparation. To have a more insight on the Lappish cuisine, I had a conversation with Sirly Ylläsjärvi, an expert in the Northern cuisine who is known from Finnish MasterChef and co-founder of boutique establishment Aurora Estate.

Chef Sirly Ylläsjärvi LaplandHome in Lapland

Her name is Sirly Ylläsjärvi, she is originally from Estonia but moved to Finland in 1991 when she was 5 years old. All of her education was done in Finland and when she turned 18 years old, she started travelling around. She lived in Tromsø, Norway for 2 years and then she went to New-Zealand for 1 year. After travelling, she returned to Finland and was questioning herself where she would like to live. Nature and fishing has always been very important to her, so because of these reasons she choose to move to Lapland. She still needs to travel back and forth to southern Finland because of her career, but mostly she is found in Lapland.

Chef Sirly – The beginning of the cooking journey

11 years ago, the first Masterchef came to Finland, a competitive cooking show television format. She applied to the show, got in as the youngest competitor and ended in 3rd place. From that moment, she started working in restaurant kitchens.

When she was 25 years old, she was a partner in a restaurant in Southern Finland where they made fresh pasta. It was a hard working time and she realized that it was too much and too fast so she decided to sell her shares and came back to Ylläsjärvi in Lapland.

Back in Lapland, Sirly had the chance to start their own business. Together with co-founder and friend Heidi Seikkula they established Aurora Estate. Aurora Estate is a very charming boutique hotel located at Ylläsjärvi Lake shore. They always knew before starting, that they want to make something different and serve a high-quality hospitality service. When you are a guest at Aurora Estate, your whole holiday is already planned and booked. You can arrive and just relax and enjoy. Also the breakfast is always served at the table and made just for you.

Northern cuisine

Regarding the food, she likes to be modern. But in the same time, she does not want it to be too weird. The most important thing still stays the flavor.

Sirly’s passion for the Northern cuisine also comes from her wanting to create something unique with local ingredients. For her, the northern cuisine is mostly about the pure flavor, also the ingredients should be from here. It does not mean that you can not use other ingredients from other places. But it is really important for her to use ingredients when it is in the season (for example: no asparagus in winter time).

Aurora Estate Sirly Ylläsjärvi Picture by Luisa Schaffner

The most used ingredients from the northern cuisine is in her opinion definitely the reindeer. She uses it in different ways and it is also her favorite ingredient to work with in the Northern cuisine. But, she explained that she wished more people would be more brave and open to try more parts than only the reindeer filet. Sirly made a special pasta with the tongue of the reindeer.

Other typical northern dishes are the king crab (coming from Norway) and of course the wild herbs. Sirly says: I think it just needs to be clear, simple and good ingredients from here. It does not need to be boring, but she believes you need to respect what you have here in Lapland. Also salmon dish is very popular.

The local ingredients (fish and reindeer) come from nearby in Pajala, Sweden. The mushrooms and the berries, Sirly and her team picks them all by herself.

Covid-19 situation 

Sirly keeps on working hard and is participating in 2 TV shows. She was in Masterchef and in Kokkisota. The Kokkisota is very special for her, she watched in when she was a little girl and always dreamed that one day she would participate. Last year, they contacted her to invite her on the show. Besides the TV, she has her own company: chef Sirly brand where she is working with every day. At the moment, she mostly concentrates on the marketing of this brand. You can find her on Instagram Chef Sirly.

Aurora Estate opened during summer and together (Heidi and Sirly) they had a great time. They are excited and Sirly is planning on making a completely new menu and is working on this now.

Book: Recipes and Unforgettable Experiences – Lapland’s 8 seasons

Sirly and Heidi published their first cooking book ”Recipes and Unforgettable Experiences – Lapland’s 8 seasons”. You can order it directly online from here. Laplands 8 Seasons takes readers along to savour tasty food and once-in-a-lifetime experiences in the Arctic region. The book pays homage to the pure nature and ingredients of the North, as Sirly and Heidi take you on a unique culinary journey to a landscape of snow-capped fells!

Despise the challenging situation, Sirly kept on working every day and continued thinking outside the box. She contacted different brands and companies to have a possible working cooperation. She advises that it is important to not slow down and continue trying.

By Claudia Martens/ Visit Lapland ⇔


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