Before we landed in Helsinki, I had no clue what is traditionally eaten in Finland, but I was imagining that there will be lots of salmon dishes and berries. And yes, I was right. Somehow we thought food will be nothing special really, but I can say now we were wrong. We tried many interesting and very tasty dishes and really cannot say anything was mediocre. We usually had a bigger lunch as the main meal of the day and it seemed as the locals did the same. Breakfasts always got us full and so did the supermarket-bought snacks in the evening. If I had to name 5 ingredients that always seemed to find a away to our plates they would be: SALMON, REINDEER, RYE BREAD, MASHED POTATOES and BERRIES.
BREAKFAST | Finland food & drinks
Except the 3 days we spent in a cottage, our breakfast was included in the hotel room price. In Levi we stayed in a big hotel right on the ski slope and the choice of food there was just amazing, but also in all the other hotels the breakfasts were rich – there were always the usual bacon & eggs, cheese and ham and to my luck lots of vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and pickles. On top of that very good (cottage) cheese ad of course, rye bread and my favourite – salmon. Oh and there will be lots of COFFEE everywhere, they love to drink it.
Also ever present, the KARJALANPIIRAKKA (uff, hope I gt it right?) – the TRADITIONAL RICE-FILLED SAVOURY PASTRY which can be eaten cold or warm. Another speciality (which we actually know from Germany also) was MARINATED HERRING. Although eating cold salty marinated fish for breakfast sounds like an odd idea, it was actually not so bad.
SNACKS | Finland food & drinks
Loved the MARKET HALLS IN HELSINKI – so much yummy food at one place. We were also there on a weekend so we caught the SATURDAY OPEN MARKET where different food stalls were set up. Especially one of them had a looong line, so it must have been really tasty there. We usually bought some breads and spreads, cheese and little tomatoes and fruits for the way. In HELSINKI, we also found CUTE CAFES with a wonderful selection of sandwiches and pastry.
LUNCH & DINNER | Finland food & drinks
My favourite lunch? The SOUP! Well, only in Finland – because it was cold outside, so the soup felt good. SALMON SOUP was everywhere, but I have to say I had the best one in Helsinki, it was simply delicious. The soup comes with lots of cream, pieces of salmon, potatoes and sometimes also carrots. For a very affordable price it will get you full.
Another favourite – SALMON WITH VEGETABLES and BAKED POTATOES. Another classic combination. Sometimes the salmon had a bread/cheese crust and the whole thing was accompanied by FRESH DILL. Mmmm, yummy.
One thing I found funny – they called it “Italian salad” and we in Slovenia call something very similar the “French salad”. Vegetables chopped into small pieces and mixed with mayonnaise – got it a couple of times as a side dish here.
Unless you are vegetarian or vegan, you can´t leave Finland without at least tasting the REINDEER. You can have it in a burger, as a steak or like in this case the sautéed version. It always comes with MASHED POTATOES and BERRIES. Tastes a bit like beef, but yet different.
I believe BURGERS are becoming more and more popular throughout Europe at the moment and Finland obviously is not an exception. You can have them with reindeer, salmon & shrimps, beef or vegetarian. Together with French fries and a beer they also make a good affordable lunch.
The last evening before catching the night train back to Helsinki, we sat in the main railway station´s restaurant and somehow we thought of ordering a PIZZA– but not just any kind of pizza, it had to be with salmon of course. Shrimps on top. It was okay, but I guess I´m not ordering that at home.
We loved the fact that the CHILDREN MENU was usually a very HEALTHY one. If you know Ikea´s restaurants, you can imagine the food is somehow similar. MEATBALLS and mashed POTATOES, with a tomato/cucumber SALAD on the side was a regular. Also, it was often possible to get anykind of normal DISH from the menu for HALF THE PRICE/ half the portion! That was actually a great change from the usual children menu we know from back home (pasta bolognese, fries with sausage type of food).
DESSERTS | Finland food & drinks
Anyone who knows me good will tell you, I do not eat desserts. And in most cases this is very much true (I really do not have a sweet tooth), but who knows when we will be in Finland again, so I had to try a few things. Without a doubt the most interesting one was the FINNISH CHEESE in CLOUD BERRY CARAMEL SAUCE (the orange cloud berries are the famous Finland berries) with two spoons of mousse and an EDIBLE FLOWER. Really yummy.
And another classic called MÄMMI. Made of rye flour, water and powdered rye, baked and then cooled off for a couple of days, this black gluey dessert will leave you confused at the first, but once you try it together with vanilla sauce – oh, it´s very delicious. Who would have thought.
DRINKS | Finland food & drinks
Basically, we drank WATER and BEER. And one time, a glass of Argentinian WINE for 7€. Finally we were in a country where drinking tap water was not a problem. More of a problem was the price for a beer, but those in the supermarket were OK lets say. 3€ per 0,5. Oh and don´t just throw the bottles/cans away, you get 15c for each one back if you RETURN them to any shop. I have to mention one more thing – the most amazing chips we ever ate. With dill.
Food in Finland was SURPRISINGLY GOOD. It was in some aspects similar to what our grandmothers would cook (mashed potatoes and soups) and yet there was a nice twist to it (berries, game meat and the most amazing tasting salmon). The Finns looked like a sporty nation anyway, we did NOT SEE MANY FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS and not many overweight people, so that says it all ;).