Can you tell us a little about food in Finland, like... What do you eat day to day? What are sweets like? Which fast food chains are the most popular? or something else you think is interesting. Thank you! :D
Thank you for the ask! I can tell you a lot about food in Finland, fortunately, because both of my parents happen to be cooks, so I can ask about stuff from them. A lot the information I’ll tell you probably came from them.
Well, first off, I want to say that today Finnish people often eat food that isn’t necessarily traditionally Finnish or anything, for example my town has at least 5 pizza-kebab restaurants, and spaghetti is very popular. This thing called “raketti-spagetti” is sold in stores, it’s just normal spaghetti but cut into shorter pieces, and the name literally means rocket-spaghetti. I’m not sure how that name came to be, but it rhymes, so maybe it just sounded funny…? I don’t know. Stuff like rice is pretty common too, even though it’s in no way traditionally Finnish. Anyway, I’m sure that a similar phenomenon (the international foods thing, not raketti-spagetti) exists in almost every country.
Also, the Finnish cuisine has gotten a lot of influence from our dear neighbours, Sweden and Russia. Especially Sweden. So anyway, if you’re from either one of those countries and I say that something is Finnish when your country has the exact same thing, please blame my ancestors for not being more original. Although I’d like to hear about foods or customs similar to these I’m about to mention from other countries, so if you’d like to, please share them in the tags!
Okay, so I think I’ll start with the fast food- part of the question.
Finland doesn’t have that many fast food chains, really. We have McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, and soon a few Taco Bells. Like, three. BUT! We do have a chain of our own, Hesburger, which is my personal favorite out of these. It is the most popular fast food chain in Finland, with 268 restaurants. For comparison, McDonald’s has 65, Burger King 32, and Subway 155 restaurants here.
If you want to have a taste of Hesburger’s food, but don’t want to come all the way to Finland, that’s totally fine! There are Hesbugers in eight other countries, too: Estonia (42 restaurants), Latvia (44), Lithuania (47), Russia (34), Germany (3), Ukraine (3), Bulgaria (3) and Belarus (1). Pretty impressive for a chain from such a small country, huh?
I hope this doesn’t sound too much like an ad, this post is not sponsored by Hesburger. I just think it’s pretty neat. I don’t know where the restaurants are more specifically, but I’ve been to Tallinn and there were a few Hesburgers there. They have really good paprika-mayonnaise! Just saying.
Scratch that, I now know where is the Hesburger farthest from Finland:
Now, for sweets, I think I’ll have to make their own post, but we do have a lot of different kinds of candy in Finland, since we have two bigger and several smaller candy manufacturers, the two big ones being Fazer and Panda. Fazer also makes bread and cookies.
Popular candies are suklaa (chocolate) in different forms - bars, slabs (?? I hear that is also called a bar sometimes? Like smaller bars like Snickers and then slabs like the one I’ll show a picture of), chocolates, like the ones sold in a box, with filling or without, you get the idea, a lot of chocolate - and, of course, salmiakki, salty liquorice. Salmiakki candies get their amazing/awful taste from ammonium chloride. Mmmm. Potentially life-threatening chemicals combined. Delicious. (pic source)
Here is perhaps the most iconic Finnish sweet: Fazerin sininen, Fazer’s Blue. It’s just simple old milk chocolate and yet is the most popular candy in the country. Is it really that good?
Yes. Yes it is. The shade of blue used in the wrapping is trademarked*, by the way.
Okay, moving on to the day-to-day stuff…
In Finland we drink the most maito (milk) in the world per capita, a bit over 360 liters. The 2nd is Sweden by the way, with around 356 liters. We also consume the most kahvi (coffee) per capita, the national average being around 2.6 cups. Seriously, people here drink coffee all the time. In the morning, after lunch, when you come to visit you can be sure you’ll be offered a cup of coffee, at weddings, at funerals, with dessert, I mean, all the goddamn time. Sometimes they don’t even have a reason I’m sure. You know when at work there are those shorter breaks? In Finland a break like that is called kahvitauko. It means coffee break, which I’m sure is a familiar concept in other countries too.
But yeah, people do drink milk at every meal - not everyone, of course, but most people - and for people who are lactose intolerant there are special kinds of milks where the lactose has been processed already, so lactose intolerant people can drink it safely.
This is our fridge. That milk probably lasts like half a week. The light blue one is fat-free.
‘There is also this thing called piimä, which is a drinkable product made from milk with Lactic acid fermentation. It’s not my favorite, but it’s okay.
Maito versus piimä. (source)
Apparently there is a strict divide in Finland between west and east, where west likes piimä better, but east prefers something called kokkelipiimä, which, to me, sounds very suspicious, and I did not know it even existed. It’s piimä with something more solid also made from milk mixed into it. Looks like this.
I seriously had never heard of it. I do live in the western half, so I suppose the divide is real. Huh. (source)
A traditional Finnish drink, kotikalja, is often drunk at fancier occasions, for example at the Christmas meal or at some other celebration, like weddings or such. It has a bit of alcohol, but so little that it doesn’t really count as an alcoholic beverage. Wikipedia tells me that it’s similar to Estonian kali, Swedish svagdricka, Dutch oud bruin and Russian kvass. It’s not the same, but it’s similar. People drink it with food.
also includes a recipe for kotikalja)
There is a Finnish word ruokajuoma, which means any drink that is often drunk at meals, like water or kotikalja or milk and sometimes also juice.
This post is getting really long, sorry about that. Anyway, we eat a lot of different keittoja (soups) here too. Most of the time they contain potatoes (perunaa), carrots (porkkanaa), possibly other vegetables, and some meat (lihaa). Kalakeitto (fish soup) can be creamy (I love it) or clear (not so good). Lihakeitto (meat soup) and jauhelihakeitto (minced meat soup)are usually clear as well. There is also hernekeitto, which is made from peas, minced meat or ham or something and some carrot. People can add mustard and onion to it. It’s often eaten on Thursdays, a habit that has spread from the army. There every Thursday is hernekeittopäivä, hernekeitto-day. With hernekeitto the dessert is usually pancake with jam. (pic source)
The pancake, pannukakku, doesn’t look like what you might expect, though. It’s like this.
What is the closest relative to the other kind of pancake is called lettu here, or räiskäle, and it’s closer to a crêpe or a blin. (An actual blin, in Finland there is some misconception about blinis being small and thick… things, but maybe people would otherwise mistake them for a räiskäle?) (source)
They are usually eaten with jam or sugar or whipped cream, or ice cream, or berries, or all of them. There are also muurinpohjaletut, which are cooked differently. (source)
A very basic dish we eat a lot here is potatoes and some kind of kastike (sauce). The sauce usually has pieces of meat, or sausage, or minced meat. We use a lot of minced meat. The picture example is made with makkara (sausage). (source)
When it comes to leipä (bread) I might be a little biased, because my parents bake a lot of bread themselves. Most households usually have at least two types of bread available, some lighter bread like piimälimppu for example, and ruisleipä. It is very Finnish, even though rye bread is eaten elsewhere too. In grocery stores you can find many shelves full of it. There are even rye chips here! Not French fries, or potato chips, really, more like nachos. But made from rye. Weird. (source of pic below)
One of the many forms of rye bread. (source)
Usually the shelves would be full but it was late and almost juhannus. That’s all for rye bread there. (Don’t mind my sister’s hand btw)
You can get rye bread in dried from too, all crunchy and pretty tough. Examples of this, dry, crunchy, though perhaps not that tough bread are näkkileipä and hapankorppu. Näkkileipä is often served in schools, since it doesn’t go bad easily. Both näkkileipä and hapankorppu are the best when they have some butter (voi) on top, at least I think so.
Hapankorppu in the front, näkkileipä in the back.
“Which side do you put the butter on?” is a common topic of debate between Finnish people. (It’s the side without the holes, fight me)
And yet another traditional Finnish food that’s eaten like bread and has rye in it, is karjalanpiirakka, Karelian pie. It’s basically rice porridge in a crust made from rye flour. It is also called riisipiirakka. There are other versions of it as well, for example they can have mashed potato instead of rice in them. It’s traditionally eaten with munavoi, boiled egg and butter mixed together. It is heavenly. It’s the stuff in the picture way up there, actually, but I’ll refresh your memory.
Another pretty basic, and quite traditional Finnish food that is still pretty popular as I understand, is makaronilaatikko, macaroni casserole, made of macaroni, minced meat, and a mixture of milk and egg. All the ingredients are put together and mixed, and cheese is put on top, though not in traditional versions. Then the whole thing is put into the oven and cooked for some time, and then eaten usually with ketchup. It’s one of my favorite foods.
Fish is eaten fairly often, but pork, chicken and beef are probably more common. In summer we eat a lot of sausages and nakki (frankfurters) (?? I have never heard this word). Most common spices are salt, suola and pepper, pippuri. There are also a ton of prepared foods in markets, and I mean a lot. Whole aisles, many meters, of foods like makaronilaatikko or jauhelihakeitto that you just need to warm up. Convenient. One of my favorites are pinaattiletut, small lettus with spinach in them. I like them a lot. There are also the same kinds of small lettus made with carrot. Oh, and also blood. They’re called veriletut in Finnish.
Well, I’d love to tell you more, but this post is already way too long, so. I’ll end it here. If you want to know more of something specific I mentioned, ask, and I’ll try to get a post made. I’m planning on covering a few topics here more in depth in the future, but we’ll see.
Oh, also, a lot of the sources for the pictures in this post also feature a recipe, though they’re in Finnish. If you’d like me to translate one of them so you can try it out, just ask!
Thank you for the ask again!
(*edited because I, the smart person I am, mixed up copyright and trade marks. Sorry about that.)