Finnish nam nams

before i moved to Finland, i’ve heard stories from ppl who had lived abroad, how their tongues get dulled after continuously & daily eating western food, which they claim to be “tasteless”.

i wasn’t too surprised, considering that Indonesian food needs at least 10 different spices for 1 meal, that we Indonesians can feel that western food is a dull taste for our tongues.
then i moved to Finland. in the beginning, i added extra black pepper and chilli sauce to every food i ate, for fear that i wouldn’t be able to eat the “tasteless” food. but after a while, i began to appreciate the simplicity of western food. when you don’t need 10 different spices to enjoy food, don’t you think the food deserves a credit for just being good, simple food?
and then we (i & my husband) would meet some other Indonesians who still think that Finnish food is “tasteless”, or even just plain bad. but when we ask if they like graavilohi (salt-cured raw salmon), they’d say, why yes, of course. so it’s not “tasteless” or bad afterall, is it?
another thing that fascinates me is how there are specific food for specific dates or holidays. i guess it goes for every western country, but for this entry, i’d like to introduce the food & drinks we consume in Finnish holidays (or special dates/occasions).
now that i’ve tried most of them, i can safely write about them . here they are in chronological order from the beginning of the year.
+Runebergin torttu or Runeberg’s tart
this is prolly the one thing i haven’t tried myself. there’s a day called Runebergin päivä or Runeberg’s day here which is on February 6th. the name is taken from Johan Ludvig Runeberg, born on February 6th 1804, a Finnish poet of his time. He also created the poem “Maamme” (Our Land) which then became Finnish national anthem.
i read somewhere that back then it was common that they use celebrities’ names for food, thus there’s Runeberg’s tart, eaten on the anniversary of his birthday.
that is raspberry jam on top of the tart, i believe.

+laskiaispulla or shrove bun

this one is my fave of all these delicacies! Finns love their buns, and i think i’m turning into a Finn already because i love buns too now.
shrove buns are eaten on shrove Sunday…and weeks and days before that too, actually. this year, the shrove Sunday falls on March 6th, but they already sell these buns on stores!
the bun’s flour mix itself has sprinkles of cardamom, and when the bun’s done, it’s cut on the top part so that it can be filled with strawberry jam & covered with whipped cream. and then the top part is put back in place, and the whole bun is sprinkled with fine sugar.
doesn’t it just sound dreamy? it tastes as good as it sounds too!
+hernekeitto or pea soup
just a normal pea soup, also eaten on the shrove Sunday. of course, it’s also available all year round, so you can basically eat it anytime of the year. i actually already knew this soup waaaaaay before i moved to Finland, as my grandmum used to make it. when i moved here, i was delighted to see something i’m familiar with…until i learned that the canned ones taste nothing like my grandmum’s. but nonetheless, i can enjoy pea soup when it’s served with some meat/sausages and cottage cheese.

+mämmi
yes, i know, it looks very unpleasant. this one doesn’t have any English name, i think. mämmi is eaten on Easter day (and some days before that too, if you’d like). for us Indonesians, you’ll find that it tastes like dodol, overly sweet and somewhat rum-y, even though they are actually made of completely different materials. it’s eaten with cream & sugar, or with vanilla cream, so in the end it’s not that sweet (at least in my opinion). my co-workers have asked if i actually liked mämmi, with a cringe on their face as if they’re ashamed to have such food registered in the Finnish traditional food list. and let me tell you, i do actually like it. in fact, better than i like dodol. but i just can’t consume it too much at one time, as it can be suffocatingly sweet after a while.
other than mämmi, we also eat lamb/mutton, and chocolate eggs on Easter day.

+tippaleipä & sima or funnel cake & sweet mead
this was one of the first of this bunch that i tried upon moving to Finland. they’re eaten on Vappu or May Day, along with other May Day foods like sausages, meatballs and potato salads. for our Indonesian tongues, you’ll find the funnel cake to taste just like kue kepang with sugar . the sweet mead tastes very good, especially if it’s home made. but the home made one usually makes my tummy bloat as it contains active dry yeast. in the home made version, they’d put some raisins in it, and then close the bottles they’re making the mead in. they’ll know when the mead is ready to be consumed when the raisins are up floating, because that means the bubbles (soda) have lifted them up.
+barbecue for Midsummer’s day and the rest of the summer
no pictures or special names for this one. there’s all kinds of sausages, and i haven’t even tried all of them yet so far!
+rapujuhlat or crayfish party season
i’ve written about the party itself here. it’s usually celebrated from end of July up to September. basically, you gather with your family (or friends, if you’d like) to eat & bathe in crayfishes . you eat them cold, with toast bread spread with butter and sprinkled with dill leaves. after eating the crayfishes, your fingers would usually be wrinkled like you’ve been in the bathtub too long! i love it nonetheless.
+mätileipä or fish roes and toast breads
this is also one of my faves. it’s usually eaten around wintertime. the idea prolly generates from Russian blini (look it up from Google yourself!). first, you toast the breads, just normal toast breads. and then you spread butter on them. then you add spoonfuls of fish roes. then add a spoonful of smetana or creme fraiche. and lastly, sprinkle chops of onions. mix the fish roes, smetana and onions, to create a thick spread on top of the bread. you can add sprinkles of black pepper on top of them. YUMMMMMMMMMMMM. irresistable. we usually eat 4-5 toast breads in one meal. very fulfilling and satisfaction guaranteed!

+joulupuuro or Christmas porridge
usually the first meal of Christmas time! i’ve written about this before, but i’m too lazy to track it down, so i’ll just describe it a bit again. it’s basically rice porridge mixed with milk, and eaten with cinnamon powder, sugar and/or plum soup. the special thing is that the cook hides 1 almond in the porridge, and whoever gets the almond in their porridge would have a lucky year ahead!

+joululaatikot or Christmas casseroles
joulu is Christmas, and laatikko is box, though the food doesn’t necessarily shape like boxes.
the name comes from the old days, i suppose, when they’re made in the oven in box-shaped containers. they’re a bit like paste or mashed food, and usually, or traditionally, there were 3 of them for Christmas: potato casserole, carrot casserole, and rutabaga casserole.
my fave is the rutabaga one, with the potato one following closely behind. most of the time, the carrot one is too sweet for my taste.
last year though, there’s a new trend for Christmas casserole: sweet potato. i looooved it! thank you, whoever came up with that idea.
they are eaten with overcooked ham, mustard, and dried plum.

+graavilohi or salt-cured raw salmon
for vegetarians or non pork-eaters, the way to enjoy the Christmas casseroles is to eat them with this. i’m not sure what are all the ingredients used to make it, but at least salt (sea salt?), black pepper, and dill leaves are a must. this is sashimi ala Finland (or Scandinavia) as the salmon meat is raw.

+glögi or mulled wine
there are two versions of this drink: alcoholic or non-alcoholic. i prefer the non-alcoholic one. it tastes mostly like clove to my tongue, and at first it reminded me of the old days when i had my cavities filled in at the dentist . but i do like it, and it’s a very nice change for a warm drink in wintertime, other than tea and coffee. it’s usually adorned with raisins and almonds, so it would almost be like drinking Quickly with those bubbles. except that this one is hot. and instead of bubbles it has raisins and almonds. right.
+joulutorttu or Christmas tarts
a puffy pastry with plum jam in the middle, and fine sugar sprinkle on top. the home made one (with home made flour mix, not the frozen ready-made ones like i always use ) is usually soooo good that it feels like the pastry melts in your mouth.
that’s all for now. next time, i’ll write more about Finnish food in general. my hope is that after seeing this, even without having tried them for real, you would realize that western food are not dull or tasteless. they are just different, and more simple than most Asian food. wouldn’t it be nice if we can open our minds (and mouths) to these so-called tasteless food and appreciate all kinds of taste, the heavily seasoned ones and also the minimalistic ones?
note: pictures are borrowed from mtv3.fi, yle.fi, and other sources that i’ve forgotten. they are not mine, and the credits belong to those who own them.
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12 thoughts on “Finnish nam nams

  1. heyyy… some of them is just like norwegians 😀 Like the buns, we call them “fastelavn boller”, the pea soup, “ertesuppe” ( I think they have the same in the netherlands, ), the crayfish ” kreps”, the christmas porridge “Julegrøt”, the salmon “gravlaks”.. the mulled wine “gløgg” some of the actually sounds similar in both languages too 😉 Well, we’re after all neighbours 🙂

  2. priciawinda said: “ertesuppe” ( I think they have the same in the netherlands, )

    yep, that’s what my grandmum used to make: erwtensoep, the Dutch version :Ddon’t you just loooove the shrove buns aka laskiaispulla aka fastelavn boller? nam nam nammmm…

  3. Pingback: Finnish nam nams, pt. 2 | Step Into The Silver Rain

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