Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series celebrating Suomi 100 in 2017, we feature the awesome food blog Hungry in Helsinki!~
Food!! Aren’t you excited! Helmed by the two founders Galith and Ofer, Hungry In Helsinki is a collection of food stories from the people of Finland. This food blog features stories people from various diverse backgrounds and cultures. It’s a great blog which aims to unite people through their love for food!
Enjoy the interview! ♡
TH: Moikka! Can you tell us more about yourselves and the food blog Hungry in Helsinki ? What are you doing in Finland?
Hungry in Helsinki: Hi there! We are so glad to be featured on THE HIENO!
Our Blog, Hungry In Helsinki is soon celebrating its first birthday and the adventure has been incredible so far.
Behind the Pictures is Ofer: A professional Photographer who has lived in Finland for almost twenty years. He is an accomplished cook with a strong penchant for delicious middle eastern flavor.
As for the voice behind the blog posts is Galith. During the day, she works as the head of IT Quality in one of the largest Finnish companies; but comes evening and she transform into a restless recipe experimenter, using her husband and two children as wilful tasters.
Playing with all range of flavors and ingredients to create the recipe of the day makes her irrationally happy after a day of dealing with the more abstract topics of her daily work!
Ofer and Galith have known each other for many years already, but really met on a dark winter afternoon at a friend’s party.
After exchanging a few words, we suddenly discovered a joint passion for Food, strong and impactful imagery and the mysteriously elusive people of Finland.
From that moment, creating Hungry In Helsinki was inevitable, the place where we imagined the unique combination of individual stories, their portraits and a recipe close to their heart.
After all, in most cultures, cooking for someone is the ultimate way to demonstrate affection and show you care. We wanted to uncover the deepest part of these secretive beings that are The Finns.
And after all, what better way to get it done than by sharing a meal together?
TH: As two foreigners with a beautiful food blog, can you tell us more about some interesting aspects of Finnish food and cuisine?
Hungry in Helsinki:
During the year we have worked on Hungry In Helsinki, we have learned more about Finland than in the many years living here! Every time we introduce our concept and our attempt to learn about people’s favorite dishes, everyone has been enthusiastic!
We found that even the most introvert people start sharing their deepest and most hidden memories through the echoes of their childhood meals or as they start evoking their food heroes. It was so great to heat the long forgotten stories of Finnish grandmothers. They seem to be the timeless carrier of comforting & warming recipes and bear with them the many skills of stretching the bounty of scarce ingredients.
What we love the most in Finnish food is the astute humility. Though the raw materials are often simple, they are ingeniously pushed to their limits, revealing a hidden gem from a seemingly unassuming start.
Take the Karjalanpiirakka for example. This oval shape pastry native of Karelia may be nothing more than a thin layer of rye flour pastry filled with rice porridge and quickly baked in a hot oven; but whoever has ever sampled one of these crisp yet creamy savory pastries will understand the craftiness and intelligence of the people who invented it!
For a more contemporary twist, no one should miss out the latest trend of Pulled “everything” with at its culmination this Finnish invention of “Pulled oats”. This tasty treat has really stretched the concept of eco-friendly sustenance, and yet again shows you how nifty Finns can be when it comes to rethinking an everyday food staple!
TH: Do you think there are some examples of foreign influences on Finnish food? If so, can you elaborate on these examples?
Hungry in Helsinki: Finland is on the border with Russia, Sweden & Norway; therefore at the core of Finnish food, it is not uncommon to find variations of similar dishes from across the frontiers.
For example, pastries using rye, barley or oats, or dishes featuring seasonal berries, locally sourced fish or meat and root vegetables are a common staple from all three countries.
However, especially these past few years, as multiculturalism has finally reached Helsinki, we have found that mainstream Finnish eateries have evolved for the better.
Still many claim their love for Italian or French food; but, if you look closely, bubbling under, you will find an untold passion for more exotic cuisines such as Asian, with discreet sushi places opening or friendly family restaurant serving myriads of piquant Sichuan dishes.
Dig a bit deeper and you will be amazed at the variety of Nepalese or Vietnamese eateries in the city. If you are curious for more you can join us in sampling middle eastern flavors from the many restaurants appearing on the street corners of the city.
If you are still not convinced that Helsinki is growing its cosmopolitan gastronomic muscle, browse by the colourful food trucks with funky names & satisfying samples of world food, and be amazed at the diversity they offer!
TH: What are the three things you appreciate most about Finland?
Hungry in Helsinki:
First – the preference for sourcing locally and reducing our negative footprint on the environment.
In Finland, it seems that first and foremost is a deep attachment to the earth. Despite seeming at first a hostile land, it is filled with treasure for those who know how to look for them.
Gorgeous berries in summer, plentiful apples in Summer, gorgeous Chanterelles & Ceps (boletus) in autumn and hearty root vegetables all winter long.
Similarly, Finnish food is simple, yet layered and represent well its people. Humble but generous. Unassuming but complex.
Second, the concept of “Less is more” – and the Nordic view to beauty.
Unlike many other countries, in Finland, the one who spends all their time working is not really admired; on the contrary, it seems, instead that the one with an adjusted Work-life balance, various outdoors hobbies and sufficient time away to rest at the Mökki ( cabin) is the happy one.
Here, salaries are not the highest, but the standard of living is definitely amongst the highest in the world. With long holidays, good health care, excellent education, yearlong maternity leave and an irrefutable respect for family life over work makes for little to want and creates a sense of contentment and calm we have rarely witnessed elsewhere.
Finally the sincerity and honesty. Finland is by far the most trustworthy country you can find. Forget your bag on a table and be sure to have someone call you within the hour to return it to you untouched! Similarly, with relationship and friendship. In numbers there may be few but the one you do have will never fail you and are friends for life!
TH: What do you think are some of the popular misconceptions of Finland and Finns that are far from the truth?
When it comes to food, Finns and foreigners alike have the natural instinct to dismiss Finnish food as tasteless and boring.
We couldn’t disagree more!
Every time we start working on replicating a classic Finnish recipe, we find something exciting and provocative about it.
One of our favorite example is Kaalilaatikko. With enough patience, a simple cabbage & minced meat casserole will turn into a fragrant, scrumptious and warming dish. We love the Finnish way to serve it almost abruptly; sharpened with unsweetened lingonberry jam on the side. It is pure genius, and it comes from the unpretentious way Finns approach everything!
And those who have never tasted a warm Korvapuusti’s fragrant combination of cinnamon, brown sugar and cardamom dough will not understand the Finns passion for deep flavors.
Finnish food and people are far from boring and we are getting more and more excited about both dish after dish!
TH: What are the three things that you would consider to be “Finnish”?
Hungry in Helsinki:
- Resilience. How to speak about Finland without mentioning first Sisu– which translates roughly as grit, or resilience. Incidentally, Sisu is also the name of the mysterious Salmiakki or salty licorice treat so beloved by Finns. You probably have to be born with the taste for it to truly enjoy it because despite my many attempts to understand its appeal I’m still not convinced I’ll ever fully get it!
- Humility – the rest of the world is good at bragging and showing how wonderful even the smallest achievements are. In Finland it seems this is not a common trait. Instead the most brilliant people will simply shrug and shy away from any praise and dismiss the admiration for their great achievement. People may mistake this as shyness to me it is simply humility and the mark of a stern elegance.
- Silence – In Finland there is saying that it’s a country in which the people can be silent in 2 languages. It took us many years to understand what this truly means. Silence is not merely the absence of talking, It is the act of letting the other have space. Space to be, to think and to find their voice beyond the noise. Silent is a mark of respect and of deference. The best of friends can be silent together without awkwardness. To the untrained eyes, Finns are impassive; but when you spend enough time around them you will find that instead Finns are a deeply passionate people; they simply have a different way to express their emotions. That subtlety is what makes them so distinctive and we have come to value this!
TH: If I have tourist friends who are coming to Finland, can you recommend three of the most unique food places they should go to, or uniquely Finnish food to try?
Hungry in Helsinki: Simply walk around any harbor and stop by one of the simple food huts for a creamy Salmon soup. Dip some generously buttered rye crisps into the pale liquid and observe in silent the many faces of Finland from the Sami wood carver to the Oulu born silver crafting jeweler.
Then walk along the bay, in search for a warming coffee place in which you will enjoy a dark-roasted local café with a cinnamon bun (Korvapuusti), still warm and sticky from the oven. Finish your day with a few Karjalanpiirakka simply toasted, covered with thinly sliced of cheese, a few crisp slices of cucumber and half a cherry tomato lightly sprinkled with sea salt.
TH: What is the one Finnish recipe that you think everyone should know? Can you share it with us?
Hungry in Helsinki:
A simple yet, mandatory recipe for all is the delicious Fish soup!
It is a perfect dish all year long, but really gets perfect when the cold days are closing in. It’s a classic recipe and every Finnish household has their take on it!
Here is ours–
– 6 potatoes
– 2 carrots
– 2 onions
– 8 dl of water
– ½ teaspoon of whole peppercorns (about 10)
– 1 Bay leaf
– 200 grams of Salmon filet,
– 200 grams of white fish filet
– 2 dl of crème fraiche
– 1 cube of fish stock
– A handful of fresh dill
– Salt & white pepper to taste
– ~30g Butter for frying
– Wash, peel & cube the vegetables.
– Mince the onion and sauté briefly in butter in a deep pot
– Cover the vegetables with the water & add the fish stock. Add the spices & bay leaf, leave to simmer gently
– Clean the filet of fish remove bones & skin and cube
– Add the fish to the stock, then add the cream
– Cook until the fish is no longer translucent (about 5 minutes) & taste for saltiness
– Add the Dill and serve immediately with warm rye bread & butter –
That the recipe that can’t go wrong, simply use fresh ingredients and enjoy!
TH: Finland would be celebrating its 100 years of independence next year. What are your dreams and visions for Finland’s future?
Hungry in Helsinki: Dear Finland, for your 100th birthday we would like to wish you joy, happiness, prosperity, diversity and creativity!
Do not fear; in country years, 100 is the age of reason, yet it is still young and energetic.
You have your life ahead of you and we are proud of how elegantly you have grown from your rural childhood into a lovely urban young lady. Do not forget your roots and where you are coming from, but with it, remember to respect and value diversity and the many cultures that will inevitably cross your path as you gain wisdom and years.
Each new person you let in will bring you a new spice or flavor to make you richer and even more beautiful. From the chilli of oriental food, the rosemary of southern cuisine, the gingery scent of Asian world and more, you will be amazed at the many wonders that lie within if you allow them to surprise you.
You are a unique and beautiful place, with a serenity and certainty that takes our breath away and we are proud to call you my adoptive country.
TH: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?
Hungry in Helsinki: Tonight when you make dinner, why not add some spice to your usual recipe?
A hint of nutmeg in your usual potato Gratin, a dash of golden curcuma to your milk or some warming ginger in the cookie dough… Innovate, be proud of trying because there is nothing more natural and simple than making food.
So, how about popping-up over to us at Hungry In Helsinki and find your next meal’s inspiration?
We hope you have enjoyed this interview with Hungry in Helsinki. The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme.This series “What is Finnish-ness”? is endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. Photographs courtesy of Galith and Ofer. ♡ You can read their blog at Hungry in Helsinki or like them on their facebook fanpage.