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Mid-January in Lapland, one of those brutally cold days without a cloud in the sky, when the wind blows straight from Siberia into your bones and the aurora borealis crackle eerily in the dark blue skies of the polar night like hallucinations on your optic nerve, still weeks left until the sun's first peek over the horizon. I was huddled in the back of a snowmobile, shivering with cold inside my thick fur-lined parka, as the crazy Lapp driver gunned his mechanical beast through the snowy forest, heading towards a little log cabin in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly, he turned his red leathery face towards mine, eyebrows, mustache and beard frosted white and beady little blue eyes glowing, and said:
Hanging in there, sonnyboy? I told ya, ya shoulda eaten that reindeer hash, ain't no way a city slicker like ya gonna make it through the winter without it! Now just wait 'till we get home and uncle Jukka'll fix yer up right'n'proper...
I shuddered visibly, but my face was too numb for me to be able to speak, and he cackled maniacally, spittle instantly freezing into a spray of tiny snowflakes. Still leering at me, he took off one glove, reached with his fingers into an inside coat pocket and pulled out a big greasy brown glob of reindeer hash. I looked on, horrified, as he grinned and shoved in all into his toothless mouth, jaws moving up and down like a cow chewing on cud, a trickle of fat running down his chin.
That's what's wrong with you punks down South! I tell ya, there ain't nothing on this earth like honest-to-Gawd homemade reindeer hash to keep a man alive... and there ain't nothing like the taste of hash made from a reindeer you've killed with your bare hands!

Reindeer Hash ( Poronkäristys )

So, as you've probably figured out by now, reindeer hash has nothing to do with cannabis products: instead, it's an everyday dish for reindeer herders in Lapland and about the only reindeer-based dish eaten down south below the Arctic Circle as well. While the recipe is extremely simple, reindeer meat is a bit tricky to deal with and it has a tendency to become very rubbery: fry well before you add the water. And while exotic it may be, it would be difficult to call this health food...


Some versions suggest adding onion or other spices (e.g. pepper), but such effete luxury betrays the austere spirit of the traditional recipe.


  1. If the reindeer meat is not already shaved into thin strips, scrape it thinly against the grain.
  2. Melt the bacon/lard/butter in a frying pan.
  3. Add reindeer meat and cook until the fat starts to boil.
  4. Add just enough water/beer to cover the surface. Season with salt.
  5. Cover partially and let simmer for an hour or two.
  6. Serve with mashed potatoes and fresh lingonberry or cranberry mash.
Incidentally, the introductory story is purely fictional, I just find the conventional English name of the recipe amusing. (A more direct translation of the Finnish would be something like "fried reindeer" or "grilled reindeer", but those would probably give the wrong impression.) And I do have a bit of personal antipathy towards the stuff, since at the tender age of 10 I came close to choking to death on a particularly greasy lump...

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