Finns and their Food
Let’s cut to the chase, it’s hard to beat the divine delicacies of this Nordic country in the summer. The strawberries are sweeter, the new potatoes actually have a flavour and the fish, well, find out for yourself!
Those silvery darts that whip through the Baltic Sea are pretty much a Finnish staple. Called Baltic herrings, dipped in batter and fried to perfection, served with mashed potatoes and beetroot salad, is a dish fit for a gourmand. It comes at a smile-on-you-face price of around €15 at Seahorse and Salve, two down-to-earth iconic restaurants in Helsinki.
There’s something fishy going on at Nokka and there’s a good reason for it. Head chef Ari Ruoho is a devoted fisherman and treats his catch with care, preparing his slightly off-the-wall recipes with surprising results. How about smoked bream mousse with horseradish and rye? Or pan fried perch with nettles and smoked perch roe? Dip your toes in the Baltic from their terrace right on the edge of the walkway and while away your time with cool wine and a snack menu with ingredients sourced as local as possible. Their Helsinki Menu is the most ordered menu on their list and they’ve even got a vegetarian one.
Newest of new potatoes
Anybody, especially the Finns, will tell you that Finnish new potatoes are the best on the planet, that Swedish new potatoes don’t hold a candle against them, that they taste like wax. Find out for yourself at König where their new potato menu offers them plain with sea salt and dill, grilled and skewered with beef and in waffle form with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, amongst others.
Wild herbs have made a comeback and not so much for medicinal reasons either but simply for their pure, delicious taste. The island of Lonna is now open to the public as a recreation area, a museum of the generators that demagnitised war ships, with a restaurant, café and terrace. Head chef Joni Rahikainen uses simple, clean ingredients of known origin flavoured with wild herbs. Nettles feature on the menu together with deep fried vendace and rhubarb with a dollop of caramel ice cream.
And while we’re on the subject of wild herbs, Copas y Tapas owner Jari Lahdenoja has no less than two foragers combing the forests for delectables to go with their seasonal dishes which change almost on a daily basis depending on what’s best and fresh out there. His son Aleksi and sommelier Pascal bring in a stash of greens to go with freshly picked vegetables from a garden in Kumpula which are served with Fish of the Day and other mains, always domestic of course. The service can’t be beaten and the Spanish twist on Finnish ingredients gives a different take on each meal.
Pure Bistro are also adherents of the wild herb trend. Organic eggs served with veggies and jasmine hollandaise gets your taste buds going. Fresh linguini, locally made, is magnificently complemented by burrata cheese and Douglas Fir pesto, a conifer with all kinds of healing properties. And then there’s their tapas menu for the not so hungry. Lunch at a reasonable €10 can be the likes of sautéed game, fried vendace or even chicken curry.
Cheap and Cheerful
Street food has placed its footprint solidly into the hearts and mouths of Helsinkians. Whether in the form of food trucks or fixed establishments, these joints are popping up everywhere. Grab some grub from Street Gastro at 3 different venues – Vaasankatu 13 in Kallio, Albertinkatu 36 and a food truck (inner courtyard of the Bock building in Tori Quarters). Their sandwiches all cost €9 and everyone has a different angle depending on whether you choose lamb, chicken, beef or veggie. Out of the wind, into the sun at the Bock Terrace you can have a cold beer or a cocktail.
A place with a queue is always a sign of something good and the locals don’t have this one wrong! It’s Harju Döner (Fleminginkatu 23) and it’s doner kebabs freshly made, yes! taken off the skewer and replaced by new stuff every day using local meat and greens to fill up that pita with a dash of sauce that drips down your arm and makes you lick it up. Street food at its best where you can also drink some kick-ass wine and even champagne (€55/bottle) if it’s one of those days. Doners cost €9.50, platters €15.
But if you fancy just a plain pizza you’re in for a wake-up call at Skiffer’s where you’ll be treated to white table cloths, crystal glasses and a menu like no other pizza menu you’ve seen before. Formaggio comes with cheese, truffles, nuts and figs while Surf ‘n Turf brings you a combo of fresh chorizo salami, noble crayfish and fresh red chilli pepper. Pizza can be classed as Finnish staple food but these guys have taken it a leap further. I miss their French Kiss served with beef tongue…..
In the same ilk as sandwiches and pizzas, burgers can also almost be classed as the national food. But the punters are becoming ultra fussy about the meat patty, the fillings and the buns. Treat yourself to a real goodie at Roslund’s Butchery at two different venues: Hietalahti Market Hall and Teurastamon Portti, part of the old abbatoir that has been renewed into a foodie heaven.
Finnish summer and ice cream are synonymous. The Finns really, and I mean really, like their ice cream and they’re damn good at making it. Try Helsingin Jäätelötehdas (various kiosks around the city) for a vanilla with the seeds showing, or Jädelino (at Teurastamo) that makes a different batch almost every day with a new flavour.
And don’t mess with my strawberries! Forget the champagne, forget the cream, just give me that sweet midnight sun flavour of a Finnish strawberry which I can buy at any market place in its freshest form possible.