Archive for September 24th, 2008

Suomalaisten ruokaa (Finnish food)

One thing I love about going to Finland is that I’ve never had to make plans to have an authentic experience, to make an effort to find something non-touristy or off the beaten path. During all my trips to Finland, I’ve been generously welcomed into somebody’s home and led around by friends, so although I’ve been a tourist in Estonia’s northern neighbor, I’ve never really felt like one.

Our recent trip to visit J’s parents in Liminka was, of course, no exception. We did very Finnish things and, even though I wasn’t going out of my way to make it a fooding trip, I had a lot of new Finnish food experiences.

Walking around Oulu on our first day, we stopped at a fish counter in the marketplace by the waterfront. (Random thought—Oulu’s position by the sea and its general feel remind me a lot of Baltimore). We needed a snack, so we got a little sack of fried salmon nuggets, which J said he used to snack on all the time as a student. It was a very handy way to have a protein-filled snack.

From there, we headed to Stockmann to check out candy (since there’s plenty of stuff you can get in Finland but not in Estonia). I spotted a package containing large foil-wrapped mounds and exclaimed, “Wow, those candies are huge!” My next thought, which was also expressed aloud, was “And that package is so racist!” J replied, “They used to be called ‘Neekerin Suukot’.” (Neekeri is a somewhat archaic but not inherently offensive Finnish word for dark-skinned people. Suukko is a kiss).


J also mentioned that the candies were one of his favorites as a kid, so we decided to get a package so I could try one too. Each “kiss” is a mound of marshmallow-like fluff on a plain wafer base, covered in a thin layer of dark chocolate. The fluff wasn’t as sweet as I expected it to be, and the chocolate was actually pretty good. I finished off one, but it’s not something I’d eat every day. Still, it was fun to engage in a bit of nostalgia with my boy.

That night, dinner was a kirjolohi (rainbow trout) J’s father had smoked himself that day, along with potatoes, white asparagus, dill sauce, and a lovely salad. J’s mother seriously makes the prettiest salads I’ve ever seen (you can see it in the picture), and that night’s had hard-boiled egg, tomato, tiny shrimp, and avocado. Mmm. And the fish was amazing as well. I’ve had similarly smoked salmon at restaurants in Tallinn, but this was better.

Pretty salad, cute wine glasses… look, the butter even has a parsley garnish!

The next day, J’s mother wanted me to try something new, so she made some Juhannusjuusto for dessert after lunch. Juhannus is the Finnish word for Midsummer and juusto is cheese, so this is a food associated with the summer holiday, but people eat it all year round. It’s made by simply adding some rennet to milk, and if I understood correctly (my Finnish is a little rusty), she said it’s supposed to be cooked for a long time. The curds that develop from the milk were kind of firm with an ever-so-slightly squeaky texture and mild taste, and they were sprinkled with sugar before eating. Upon his first taste, J’s dad reported, “This isn’t good.” But after that he changed his mind, since he ended up eating three servings :-).

Milk lumps are not terribly photogenic

On our final morning, J’s mother put something out for breakfast that I’ve eaten before, and it’s one of my favorite Finnish foods—Karjalanpiirakat (Karelian pies, which I wrote about before) with egg butter. Alongside them were little pies I’d never seen before called rönttönen, made with the same dough as Karjalanpiirakat but filled with a mixture of potato and lingonberries. The filling is sweet, with a tart kick from the berries. It’s soft and almost creamy, and I never would have guessed it was potato-based. Plus it’s a lovely purple color. It was really pleasant, and I kind of wish I could have something like that around for breakfast more often. Perhaps I should learn to make them…

I also got some Karjalanpiirakat to take as a snack on my flight back to Tallinn. They were the best travel snack ever, covered with a healthy dose of egg butter and a thin slice of reindeer meat (like a cold cut, but made of reindeer). As I nibbled on them during my trip back to everyday life, I felt happy and very well cared for, because truly, I was. Kiitos kaikesta (thank you for everything)!

Read Full Post »