New and traditional foods this Christmas
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Finns get ready for their big annual feast. Both traditional and newer Christmas dishes are served from the beginning of the month onwards at pre-Christmas parties. Christmas in Finland is all about sitting down together around the table and enjoying only the very best foods.
Traditional Finnish delicacies
The Christmas table in Finland features a wide variety of traditional delicacies, including rosolli (beetroot salad), potato, swede and carrot casseroles, and cured ham, but there’s always room too for new ideas. These days many Finnish families serve the best dishes of the year at Christmas, making it quite a challenge to taste each and every single one of them!
Finnish ingredients, especially locally sourced ones, are highly valued, and each Christmas chef likes to add his or her own personal touch. In some families, for example, the first new potatoes of the summer are frozen and served on Christmas Eve. There are also many schools of thought regarding how peas and lutefisk should be served – or whether they should be served at all.
Fish is increasingly popular at Christmas. While pickled herring and boiled lutefisk have traditionally been served, they have been joined by cured and smoked salmon, as well as delicious vendace roe.
While Christmas traditions evolve slowly over time, they can always be played with. For example, why eat all the seasonal dishes on the same day and not spread the pleasure over several days? The advent period offers many excuses for enjoying your favourite treats well before Christmas Eve!
Fish swim in the market halls
All varieties of Christmas fish can be purchased in Helsinki’s market halls and fishmongers. To help you make your selection you can walk around the Old Market Hall and taste samples of white fish cured in gin, gubbröra (egg-anchovy salad) made with herring and cold-smoked salmon on rye bread served at the different counters. For a more international touch, you can even ask the staff at E. Eriksson’s to open a few oysters to taste!
Helsinki’s restaurants also serve delicious fish dishes, from classic fried herring at Salve to the cold-smoked pike served as part of the HelsinkiMenu at Nokka during the Christmas season. Ari Ruoho, head chef at the restaurant Nokka, was recently acclaimed as having the best fish restaurant in Helsinki, and he always serves the fresh catch of the day.
Enjoy mulled wines at the Christmas Market in Senate Square
When the weather gets cold, treat yourself to a steaming cup of mulled wine, or “glögi” as it is known locally. The cafés and bars all serve their own special varieties, combining different fruit juices and new spices each year to come up with something truly seasonal. What will be this year’s hit drink – light or dark, hot or cold? Ginger snaps, cheeses and other finger food go great with glögi too!
This year the food stalls at the Helsinki Christmas Market include the Soil Wine Room from the Punavuori district. Many other smaller food kiosks can also be found there, as well as the restaurant Kolmon3n from the Kallio district.
Local glögi specialists like to brag using the hashtag #stadinparasglögi (#helsinkisbestglögi). Sommelier Janne Halla from the Soil Wine Room sheds some light on his secret recipe.
“Great glögi is handmade from the very best ingredients. For example, we use organic red wine from Spain and a spice syrup made from a secret recipe. We also serve a strong version that uses Calvados, and we serve our glögi with tapas as is our style at the Soil Wine Room,” Halla explains.
Visitors to the market can enjoy the Christmas spirit in Helsinki outdoors, warming up your hands with a mug of hot glögi or cocoa, or indoors under a roof.
The Helsinki Christmas Market invites visitors to enjoy fun shopping and the unique atmosphere in Senate Square from 3 to 22 December. The food stalls are open daily from 11am to 8pm and on weekends from 10am to 7pm.
Text: Mariaana Nelimarkka