Thai cook turns Finnish compost into delicious meals

Thai-born Penprabha Helsingius is not a fan of wasting food. When she came to Finland from her native country of Thailand she had a culture shock when she realized how many freshwater fish were thrown away and marked ”unsuitable to eat”.

“One of the first times I visited, I heard that my father-in-law was a fisherman. Then I heard that he threw most of his catch to the hedgehogs or in the compost. I said, give them to me! I will make good food from them,” she says.

Today she is living in Finland and has decided to do something about the waste of good fish. She knows how to turn the less popular Finnish bream into delicious sausages. Her kitchen skills are not to doubt: Not only is she a graduate of the Thailand’s technical university but also holds a degree equivalent to Finland’s Masters in food technology.

In contemporary Finland, most of the so-called ‘course fish’ – fish that are not salmon, trout or char – caught in operations designed to manage the country’s fish stock end up in landfills. Penprabha Helsingius can not believe good food are going to waste. 

“They are good quality fish that can easily be made into food,” she says.

She is especially knowledgeable in the preparation of freshwater fish, and she regularly transforms bream (lahna), roach (särki) and ide (säyne) into wonderful dishes.

There is need of people like Penprabha Helsingius to fight the huge waste of eatable fish in Finland. Even though a few persistent chefs like her have made it their mission to use more of Finland’s lake fish, the vast majority of less-popular species that are caught end up in landfills.

Matti Kotakorpi works for the water conservation authority responsible for the southern region of Lahti. He says in the Lahti area lakes alone, over 140,000 kilos of fish were caught for purposes of stock management last year.

“Some of the culling was carried out when the weather was warm, and because our cold storage was limited, we couldn’t offer the fish to the public. We also couldn’t guarantee that the fish would keep very long,” said Kotakorpi.

In other words, the fish caught for stock management purposes ended up in the landfill.

Another culling takes place in the autumn, however, and then part of the catch is distributed to the public. The rest is composted.

“Out of the roughly 40,000 kilos of fish that was recovered, 7,000 kilos were distributed, so just over one-fifth was given to the public,” says Kotakorpi.


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