Updated: Apr 3
Many who travel want to not only get to know a place they are visiting, but also get to know
the flavour of the place and by this I mean taste foods that are typical for that city or
country. Seeing as you are reading this you have most likely found yourself either in
Helsinki or planning on going there, so here I will do my best to introduce you not just to
the most typical foods and dishes found and eaten in Finland, but also the history of our
cuisine. Behind the most common dishes here lies a history as to why they have become
the food of choice and this is of course before globalisation and before pizza became a
staple of every cuisine…
So if you know anything about Finland you might know that we are crazy about saunas
and that the climate here is not the most forgiving. Majority of the year is spent in darkness
and between +17 degrees celsius and -3 degrees celsius (with the global warming I’m not
sure what the average weathers will be like, but let’s stick with what we know for now).
These weather conditions are not the best for a rich harvest of anything to be honest and
that is why our cuisine is quite limited. Historically we ate root vegetables with meat and
fish. Some fruits were also available, but mostly it was berries that were consumed. The
only ‘spice’ that we had available was salt, therefore the dishes that we did have were
quite bland. In the summer we got to experiment a little more with flavours as we added dill
and spring onions to our dishes.
So, from all this, stems our national cuisine - which for the most part revolves around how
preservable it is. Most of our dishes came from a history of saving food for the winter. We
made foods in the summer time and then saved them for the winter in our underground cold
boxes (as we call them). This gave name to our box foods (laatikko- ruoka). A lot of them
are made from root vegetables such as porkkanalaatikko, perunalaatikko, lanttulaatikko
etc. (don’t worry they’re well seasoned today if you want to try them).
Also, meats were preserved so we have cured fish that is a staple in our cuisine as well as
canned fish and meat. Opposite to popular belief we don’t sit and scoff down reindeer
meat over here, instead the most popular pick of meat is pork. Meats such as bear meat
and reindeer meat make up only a small portion of our cuisine and is mostly reserved for
The types of fish that are mostly consumed in Finland is salmon, herring and vendace. As I mentioned they were either cured or they were smoked or boiled. From this we get our creamy salmon soup - that is worth tasting.
In the forests we picked a lot of mushrooms that you can find in a lot of our dishes such as
our creamy mushroom sauces we put on potatoes, mushroom soups, in box foods or you
can find them cured. I mentioned that berries were also a part of our cuisine, the most popular being cranberry. They were easy to preserve due to their high vitamin C content which is a natural preservative. They were either turned into jams, frozen or turned into a fluffy consistency called vispipuuro.
On top of this we of course consumed grains, but the only grain that consistently withheld
the weather of Finland was rye so most of the bread we consumed was rye bread, which is
the case today as well. Rye was also added to box foods as well as the vispipuuro that I
mentioned. Again, for preserving reasons we made cracker type bread so that it would last
longer and this is something we still have today called näkkileipä.
I hope this gave you a short, but good idea of what our cuisine is like and why it is the way