Welcome back to Street Eats, our delicious (and sometimes disgusting) series where we discover street food from around the world! Today, we pay a visit to Helsinki, Finland, a Scandinavian city worth discovering, if only for an afternoon, or two. With quaint little cafes lining the Esplanadi, an assortment of great fashion boutiques including the nation’s most famous designer, Marimekko, a dashing white cathedral (Evangelical Lutheran), and a lovely waterfront, the city offers tourists the chance to kick back their heels and just breathe easy.
In terms of culinary delights, Helsinki isn’t world famous for it’s cuisine, but does boast a number of yummy restaurants including the Fazer Bakery (offering up an incredible breakfast for 11 Euros and tantalizing treats for those looking to fuel up in between attractions) and regional delicacies like karelian pies, a Finnish treat with a rye bread base, a gooey rice or potato middle and a buttery egg topping that I’ve made more than once at home. Le yum!
You had me at Vendace?
When it comes to street eats, market square (kauppatori) is where you’ll find the largest variety of samplers. Among the local faves are Vendace, a type of fish known as muikku in Finnish. Salty, crunchy, fried little fish, these guys are sold as street food and packaged like American french fries, ready to pop!
Not for the lighthearted, these little fish are served whole and are something fish lovers simply have to try. The rest of us will have to resort to what gets my vote as the epitome of Finnish cuisine…
#1 Street Snack in Helsinki: Reindeer Meatballs
Also found at Market Square, Reindeer Meatballs are a shining example of the love for all things reindeer throughout Finland. Bred throughout the region of Lapland (where Santa is said to reside), reindeer meat, less fatty than other meats, is a common delicacy among the locals and a must-try for any traveler passing through.
What are they?
They are meatballs. Made of reindeer. It’s that simple. The meatballs are normally served up next to a hearty helping of potatoes and vegetables. One thing’s for sure, after a meal of meatballs, you won’t leave hungry.
Where can you find them?
While reindeer meat can be ordered at any restaurant in Helsinki (well, most anyway), Reindeer Meatballs can be found at Market Square, near the water. There you can mingle with the locals, check out some souvenirs from around the area, and sit under the sun as you nibble on those beautiful creatures responsible for getting Santa where he needs to be. It’s tragic – and delicious – all at the same time.