What do you think about when you hear the name Finland?
Santa Claus, Nordic nature and Nokia? Maybe you have also heard that there are 3 million saunas in the country with a population of just 5.5 million.
All these things make Finland quite unique, no question. But did you know that the country has some really delicious foods?
In today's blog post we want to give you a little taste of the Finnish food culture and introduce you to popular classics of Finnish cuisine.
Most popular foods in Finland
1. Ruisleipä (rye bread)
In Finland rye bread is served with almost every meal. In a survey in honour of the 100th anniversary of Finnish independence, rye bread was voted Finnish national dish.
The bread owes its characteristic taste to a living sourdough. Finns prefer to eat their "ruisleipä" with butter/margarine, marinated salmon, cold cuts or cheese.
2. Karjalanpiirakka (Karelian pasties)
Karjalanpiirakka or Karelian pasties (or Karelian pies) are among the most popular specialties of the country. As their name suggests, they originate from Karelia, an eastern region between Finland and Russia.
This is a pastry with a very thin, crispy dough cover made of rye and a rice filling. In addition to the classic version with a rice filling, there are also regional variations with fillings made out of potatoes or carrots. Finns prefer to enjoy their karjalanpiirakka with fresh egg butter (munavoi) or other savory toppings.
3. Lihapullat (meatballs)
Meatballs are as quintessentially Swedish as it gets and the most popular dish at Ikea restaurants.
Nevertheless Finns love their meatballs, too! Traditionally they are made of finely chopped minced meat. Similarly like in Sweden they come with a traditional brown sauce, mashed potatoes and a dash of cranberry jam.
4. Graavilohi (marinated salmon)
The Swedish name “gravad lax”, from which the Finnish name is also derived, literally means "buried salmon". The skinned salmon is rubbed with dill, sea salt and pepper and sugar. Originally, this process was developed to preserve the easily perishable fish. Nowadays, however, the salmon is no longer dug in the ground: it is simply prepared in the refrigerator.
Graved salmon is traditionally enjoyed with rye bread and salted butter or with boiled potatoes. There are also preparations with a honey-mustard sauce.
5. Karjalanpaisti (Karelian hot pot)
Karjalanpaisti or Karelian stew is a simple yet tasty dish. Traditionally it is made from three kinds of meat (beef, lamb, pork), potatoes and carrots. The secret of its taste lies in the long cooking time of 2-3 hours.
6. Hernekeitto (Finnish split pea soup)
Pea soup sounds rather boring, but it is one of the Finns' absolute favourites. Pea soup is usually made of dried peas with cured meat, onions and mustard. Vegetarians can opt for a pea soup prepared only with vegetables.
Traditionally, pea soup is always served with a piece of oven pancake. Simple but delicious!
7. Mustikkapiirakka (blueberry pie)
Blueberry pies are the absolute highlight of late summer. There are many popular variations with kneaded dough, sponge cake or yeast dough. Depending on the recipe, the cake is also refined with a filling of cream or kermaviili (Finnish dairy product, similar to sour cream). It is served with vanilla sauce or a scoop of ice cream.
8. Korvapuusti (Cinnamon bun)
The literal meaning of korvapuusti is “slap in the face”. The name is somewhat misleading, as it describes one of the Finns' favourite pastries: a traditional cinnamon bun.
What distinguishes the Finnish cinnamon buns from other Scandinavian varieties is their unique shape (not a roll) and the addition of ground cardamom. The latter gives the pastry its wonderful aroma. We believe that Finnish cinnamon buns are without doubt the best in the world!
9. Vispipuuro (whipped semolina porridge)
The whipped berry foam is traditionally made with cranberries and semolina, but other berries can also be added. Water and berries are boiled up together with sugar. The next step is to stir in semolina. Let the porridge cool down. Using an electric mixer, whisk the porridge until light and fluffy.
10. Kalakeitto (fish soup)
In a country with thousands of lakes and plenty of freshly caught fish, a delicious fish soup is a must. One of the most popular variations is “lohikeitto”, a creamy salmon soup with vegetables, milk/cream and fresh dill.
The key to success: fresh and seasonal quality ingredients
The secret of Finnish cuisine are fresh, seasonal ingredients. Many of the classic dishes are relatively simple and easy to prepare, and the unforgettable taste is created mainly by the first-class ingredients. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Finland in person, we recommend that you try the seasonal dishes in their original form - it's worth it!
Hyvää ruokahalua! (Bon appetit!)