Europe,  Finland,  Food

What You Should be Eating When You’re in Helsinki

Discover what you should be eating when you’re in Helsinki – Karis shares her own delicious experiences from when she visited.

Helsinki isn’t the most ‘touristy’ town; certainly a far cry from what I’ve experienced in some of the other cities I’ve travelled too. But, I wasn’t too fussed about that because I managed to get in a good amount of Finnish food in the short time I was there (as is my goal in life).

First course: A traditional platter of sorts…

My food experiences started with a trip to the supermarket, Prisma. I love going to supermarkets for the first time in a new country. There’s always something different to try (and sometimes you find yourself shaking your head because you have no idea why anyone would want to eat whatever that strange looking thing is). In this case, it was mostly awe that I felt while walking around. So many products I’d never seen before, so many drinks I wanted to try. Not to mention we were pretty hungry. The old adage is definitely true – you shouldn’t shop while hungry!

Jess, my friend who was living in Helsinki at the time and served as our tour guide, decided we should start our first day in Finland with some traditional fare. We had quite the spread: pickles (which you buy from vats in the vegetable section, none of this jar business) with a sour cream and honey ‘dip’; bread cheese, a bit like haloumi in texture, with peach jam (apparently the usual pairing is cloudberries, but we couldn’t get any); and Karelian pies (a thin rye crust with a filling of rice) with egg butter (egg, salt, pepper, butter).

They aren’t combinations I’d have thought of back home, I love trying something new! My favourite was the Karelian pie, it was a little like eating an egg sandwich. The pies are also Jess’ favourite and many people obviously enjoy eating them for lunch because they were available with the ‘egg butter’ at most cafes.

Second course: Reindeer games…

Traditional Finnish Reindeer

For dinner that same night, Jess’ partner cooked us something even more traditional: sauteed reindeer with mashed potato, lingonberries and a pickle for good measure. I was informed that Finnish cuisine didn’t tend to use a lot of spices or herbs in the dishes they ate most regularly, so this dish involved thinly sliced reindeer cooked in butter and seasoned simply with salt and pepper. The lingonberries were cooked with a bit of sugar. A note: lingonberries are very tart, even with the addition of sugar, so it does take some getting used to.

Third course: It wouldn’t be a holiday without traditional pastries…

Korvapuusti in Helsinki

Jess knows I’m a sucker for bread-based snacks and was excited to show me a traditional Finnish ‘pastry’ called korvapuusti – a cinnamon scroll of sorts. Korvapuusti translates to ‘slapped ears’ because of their shape. They were tasty at room temperature, but even better straight from the oven. Yum!

Something to drink: Pour some sugar on me…

Cocktails at the Sling In, Helsinki

Jess had mentioned she wanted to take me to a ‘heavy metal bar’ with great cocktails and I was keen. You can’t say no to cocktails and a venue that didn’t play dance music (give me a good guitar riff any day). She took me to Sling In bar + cafe where they have a cocktail list so big, it’s stored on a computer and you can search based on name, ingredient or style.

We each took ten minutes to decide on the cocktails we would try. I went with Jess’ recommendation – a blueberry cheese cake cocktail (with actual creamy cheese in it). It was divine and you wouldn’t know you were drinking anything alcoholic….is that good or bad? I don’t know. I guess if you’re in town, you should test it out for yourself.

Something for the road: A little foraging…

One of my favourite outings was to the aptly nicknamed, Squirrel Island (Seurasaari). Not only did we get up close and personal with squirrels and tiny birds, we did some late season berry foraging, finding both blueberries and raspberries.

I’d definitely recommend picking up some sunflower seeds and heading over to the island for a couple of hours. Here’s one of the squirrels I fed:

What you should be eating in Helsinki, Finland – pin for later!

If you’re off to Helsinki and you’re looking for more inspiration, take a look at visiting Tallinn in Estonia. Just don’t do what Keri did!

What you should be eating in Helsinki, Finland
What you should be eating in Helsinki, Finland

Karis is an Aussie living in Bristol. During the working week, she works in communications, and in her spare time she’s scouring the Internet for cool places to visit and great travel deals, as well as talking about food on her podcast, At the Sauce. She loves good food and history, so her travel itineraries usually reflect this. Places she loves include Vietnam, Japan, France and Spain. Places she can’t wait to get to include Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Poland and Georgia.

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