Traditional foods hold top spot in Christmas buffet, though vegan herring has pushed out smoked mackerel

Modern vegetarian and vegan dishes have gained ground in the Christmas buffets on board Viking Line’s vessels, but traditional specialities have maintained their popularity year after year. This Christmas we are also offering individual portions in small wooden boats. “Along with using local ingredients, reducing food waste is an important part of our corporate responsibility,” says Viking Line’s restaurant manager, Janne Lindholm.

Photos and text: Viking Line©

The stars in Viking Line’s Christmas buffet are ham, casseroles and various fish dishes as starters. Alongside the traditional Christmas dishes, new vegetarian and vegan alternatives are developed each year – as is the case this year. Viking Line’s Christmas buffet debuts on November 18.



“Vegan herring made with aubergine has become a favourite. Many people also like the vegetarian dishes and accompaniments with Christmas flavours. For example, a new dish this year is glazed tofu with ginger and star anise,” says Viking Line’s restaurant manager, Janne Lindholm.

We listened to passengers’ requests when the Christmas buffet was being developed. While the trend of vegetarian and vegan dishes is strong, ham’s top position in the Christmas smorgasbord appears to be unchallenged.

“A total of 12,000 kilos of Christmas ham are served each year on our vessels, and consumption has not declined at all over the years. The most popular Christmas casserole is Finland’s traditional turnip casserole. Among fish dishes, gravlax (marinated salmon) and smoked salmon as well as traditional herring dishes are big favourites with our customers. People’s taste preferences have changed to some extent over the years. For example, we no longer serve smoked mackerel in our Christmas buffet. However, people looking for taste experiences have the opportunity to try rosehip and black pepper herring or gin herring flavoured with juniper berry and rosemary.”

Swedes demand Jansson’s Temptation at their Christmas smorgasbord

After a year’s pause, we can celebrate a nearly normal Christmas season on board the vessels this year, and travel bookings are now in full swing.

“We clearly see that people are starved for experiences as they now leave home for the first time in a long while. A well-laid table is more appealing than usual, and passengers are now spending more money in our restaurants than before Covid-19,” says Janne Lindholm.

Lindholm is in charge of planning Viking Line’s Christmas buffet, but the smorgasbord is not his work alone. The vessels’ chefs have contributed ideas – as have the Swedish National Culinary Team, which Viking Line has long worked in partnership with. The National Culinary Team has provided not just inspiration but also new recipes. As a result, the Nordic Christmas buffet includes flavours from both the Finnish and Swedish Christmas food traditions.

“These neighbouring countries have rather similar taste preferences. But Swedes are not as keen on casseroles as we Finns are. For Swedes, it isn’t Christmas without Jansson’s Temptation (a creamy potato, onion and tinned fish dish), grilled ribs and meatballs.”

Controlled portions reduce food waste

Most of the ingredients used in Viking Line’s Christmas buffet come from Finland and nearby areas – that is, Sweden, Estonia and elsewhere in northern Europe. The hams are Swedish, the eggs and milk come from Finnish farms, and the salmon – depending on supply – is from Sweden or Norway.

“We would really like to make more use of small local producers, but because of our enormous volumes that’s not always possible. Not many producers can supply such large quantities without sacrificing quality,” notes Janne Lindholm.

Work has been carried out with great success for a number of years in Viking Line’s restaurants to reduce food waste. The way the food is presented has been developed, and portion sizes have been reduced. In the food waste project launched a few years ago, people working on Mariella, for example, managed to reduce food waste per passenger by a full 40 per cent.

“This year, we’re serving about a fifth of the dishes in the Christmas buffet as portioned servings, for instance, composed in small wooden boats. In that way, it’s easy for everyone to take a suitable portion.”

The Christmas buffet is available starting November 18 on all of Viking Line’s vessels.

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