As nature lovers, Finns enjoy the simple life in their summer cabin where they fish, swim, boat, grill and fight the mosquitoes. The Finnish food is directly from Finland’s nature and while they are in their mökki (summer cabin), they depend on the fish in the lake and the vegetables and berries that mother nature provides them. Cooking in the nature is also an inseparable part of the vacation.
There are 67 species of fish found in Finland. The most eaten ones are salmon (lohikala), herring (silakka), perch (ahven), pike (hauki) and flatfish (kampela). Smoked, fried and grilled are the most common ways to cook the fish, especially in the summer cottage. There are also many fish events, as the Helsinki Baltic Herring Market (7.-13.10.2018), which has been held in Helsinki’s Market Square since 1743. And the Helsinki Angling Marathon - ‘Stadionki’, which was last May (19.5.2018) in Mustikkamaa Island.
Ruisleipä / Rye bread is the cornerstone of Finnish food culture. There are the normal rye bread packets that you can find in the stores, but the local rye bread is another story. During the summer, when most of Finland’s population is in the country side, local rye bread is purchased endlessly. A big rye bread with coarse salt, is a tradition Finnish housewarming and wedding gift, symbolized blessing and wealth.
Leipäjuusto / Finnish squeaky cheese or bread cheese is a famous Finnish traditional fresh cheese that squeaks when you bite it, in a bread shape. It’s originally from northern Finland, made from rich milk that has recently calved.
Another popular Finnish food is karjalanpiirakka. In English it’s Karelian pasty or pie, which originally came from the Karelia region in Finland but is eaten all over Finland, Estonia and Northern Russia. The main ingredients are simply rye flour, rice and butter. Usually on top of the pasty you can add eggs salad.
Traditional Finnish Food Markets in Helsinki:
There are two ways to enjoy the Finnish cuisine, one way is to be invited to a Finnish home and enjoy homecooked meal. But if you don’t get this chance, here are my Top 3 places in Helsinki where you can, not only enjoy fresh Finnish food but also enjoy our beautiful city as well.
Please notice: In many places in Finland, there are usually two markets, outside market and indoor market, which is called Market Hall. The oldest ones are the outdoor marketplaces but for food hygiene reasons the market moved inside, to trade in hall markets as from 1889 in Helsinki.
1) Market Square / Kauppatori & Old Market Hall / Vanha kauppahalli
The Market Square is located in central Helsinki, right in front of the city hall building till the president palace and sightseeing boats on the sea side. In the open Market Square of Helsinki, you can find everything from fresh fish and vegetables to popular Finnish decoration as reindeer skins (super common decoration), wood crafts for the kitchen and sauna and jewelry. Finnish street food is also there, such as grilled salmon, sardines with potatoes and vegetables. The outside market is open all around the year, but close earlier during the winter.
The indoor market, called the Old Market Hall is open Mon-Saturday 8-18, closed on Sunday. It’s the oldest hall market in Helsinki (1889). Between the many kinds of fish, you will find Finland’s unique meat- reindeer, moose and bear meat. This meat is usually served in special occasions but also can be found in markets halls. In this market hall you will find not only fresh meat but also frozen smoked reindeer meat, canned meat, reindeer chips and reindeer kebab sandwich.
Another great place to experience the Finnish cuisine is the Hakaniemi market, which is called after its neighborhood name. In Hakaniemi, the open market opens mainly on Tuesdays and weekends. The market hall is now a new modern indoor market which opens every day, but is originally found there as from 1914. A quick Finnish snack can be found in the market outside, where you can enjoy muurinpohja lettuja – griddle pancakes with whip cream and berries jam. The indoor market hall is more touristic spot, but locals shop there as well to get fresh meat and fish.
3) Salmon Soup / lohikeitto in Kahvila Kampela, Vuosaari
I cannot write about Finnish cuisine without mentioning the famous Finnish traditional cream salmon soup or lohikeitto in Finnish.
As a Middle Easter, it was hard for me in the beginning to enjoy soup with milk product inside of it, but milk is a very common element in the Finnish cuisine and the combination actually works! This soup is super good and highly recommended!
The soup’s ingredients are very simple: salmon fish, water, salt, allspice (myrtle pepper), onion, dill stems, potatoes, leek, milk and a little bit of flour.
You can find this soup in many places but the best place to eat it, is in Kahvila Kampela in Vuosaari beach, Helsinki.
For just 10 euros, you get the perfect cream salmon soup, which is right to every season (even in the summer). There is an option to have it without cream as well. The view to the sea and to the marina in this cozy coffee place with their fabulous salmon soup is just the right treat all year around.
A big thanks to Lauri from Kuopio for sharing the main image of this post with me! Much appreciated!
Written by: Dana
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