I had no expectations about Finnish food before I touched down in Helsinki. I craved seafood, I had my fingers crossed for cloudberries, but that was about it.
So it was a wonderful surprise to discover that this unassuming country has plenty of culinary highlights. Jacques Chirac had no idea what he was talking about when he declared that ˝Finland (is) the country with the worst food.˝
There is a refreshing simplicity in traditional Finnish food (maybe that’s why Chirac baulked) which is due largely to the reliance on what can be found in the forest and ocean. The cuisine has also been influenced by Germany, Russia and Sweden over time, so you might recognise a dish or ingredient here and there.
The Finns have a fantastic market culture and Helsinki in particular has some brilliant market halls including Hakaniemi and the recently renovated Kauppatori, positioned right next to Helsinki’s bustling harbour.
If you find yourself in this northern neck of the woods then promise me you will try the following…
These tiny fish are a traditional summertime delicacy, especially popular at markets during summer. Similar to whitebait, the fish are lightly breaded and fried, then eaten whole with garlic sauce or lemon. The mild umami flavour and crunchy texture were sensational and they were the perfect snack to enjoy on the boat over to the Suomenlinna fortress.
There is a long tradition of hunting in Finland, focusing on reindeer, moose and bear. Put those warm and fuzzy childhood memories of Rudolph aside right now because you will be seeing him everywhere; in kebabs, as thick steaks, cold smoked, even canned. He’ll be sitting right next to the canned bear.
Reindeer meat has a rich gamey flavour, very similar to venison, and is very lean. The slices of cured reindeer were very tasty but I didn’t go as far as buying reindeer in a can.
I was curious about the canned bear meat, but with a price tag of €20 for a tiny can, I decided my money could be better spent elsewhere… like on these babies! Read More