Travel Finland and Traditional Finnish Cuisine
One of the true joys of travel to Finland revolves around the eating experience. While people can sustain themselves with a very limited diet, our taste buds are sensitive enough to enjoy a wide variety of flavors, which is probably why so many people like to sample the culinary arts of various countries, whether they travel far and wide for the real deal or simply find a restaurant in their city that purports to supply “traditional” cuisine. In any case, it is practically required that visitors to foreign locales will learn a few phrases, see historical sites, and try the foods the country is famous for. For example, you might eat fish and chips in Britain, haggis in Scotland, croissants in France, paella in Spain, sushi in Japan, Feijoada in Brazil, and so on and so forth. But what can you expect to taste when you travel to Finland? Here are a few culinary characteristics that you can probably count on.
Traditional Finland Cuisine Fare
1. Berries. In a country where few fruits grow naturally (the climate is not exactly balmy), it’s no surprise that wild berries have become a major part of traditional cuisine in Finland. Loganberries are extremely popular and are readily available throughout Finland, while seasonal fruits like raspberries and wild strawberries can be found in abundance at certain times of year. In addition to whole fruits, visitors will delight in the many ways in which these berries are used. For example, you will likely find them in jams, jellies, creams, ice creams, meat dishes, and all manner of desserts.
2.Finnish Mushrooms. This ubiquitous fungus are featured in all kinds of recipes, from expected dishes like soups and stews to oddities like pies. They are also used extensively for side dishes and sauces in Finland. Mushroom hunting in Finland is a time-honored tradition (right along with berry picking), and one of the most popular caps to pick is the boletus (or porcini), which is often paired with moose (a meat more commonly eaten at home than in restaurants).
3. Breads. Pasties, or baked, stuffed bread dishes, are just as popular in Scandinavia as they are in neighboring European countries. The most popular in Finland is a dish known as kalakukko, which is basically a loaf of bread stuffed with meats (like fish, pork, bacon, or some combination thereof). The traditional breads of the country tend to contain heavier grains than most westerners are used to, so don’t be surprised to find loaves that feature rye, barley, and oats, for example. Rieska, or flatbreads, are also popular in Finland, and you will likely find a wide variety to choose from.
4. Porridge. Rolled oats (or other grains) make for a breakfast staple in this Scandinavian country, and they are often flavored in a variety of ways, such as with cinnamon and sugar or with a combination of milk, sugar, and butter. However, there are many special dishes in Finland, especially desserts, that incorporate porridge. Vispipuuro, for example, consists of whipped porridge with milk, sugar, and berries (usually lingonberries). And the traditional Finnish Easter dessert, Mammi, is a sweetened, baked porridge.
Meat and Fish of Finland
5. Meat and fish. While the modern cuisine of Finland relies heavily on staples like chicken, beef, and pork, traditional dishes incorporate animals that must be hunted (deer, moose, fish, and reindeer, a popular favorite). Smoked fish and lox are a common find, as is graavilohi (salmon cured with a combination of salt, sugar, and dill). But if you want to sample a truly traditional meat in Finland, try something with reindeer, which can be easily found on nearly any restaurant menu due to the tender consistency and tasty flavor.
Sarah Danielson is a contributing writer for eMenu International, offering touch screen and iPad menu options in restaurants, pubs, bars, and cafes around the world.