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Food of The Day: Pan-fried "Muikku" in Helsinki

Food of The Day: Pan-fried

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Fried "Muikku," Finnish vendace, is a crunchy treat

Although eating inherently provides an ephemeral experience, photos (fortunately) help us capture an otherwise fleeting moment. Here at the Travel channel, we’re (re)jump-starting our Travel Photo of the Day feature to share our own best food and travel memories and we want your help!

I'm starting out by sharing a travel memory from my homecountry Finland: Fried “muikku.” This crunchy treat of pan-fried Finnish vendace, is a traditional snack sold at market places and festivals in Finland. The tiny little fish are lightly breaded, fried until crisp, and eaten whole. Though the thought of eating a whole fish — bones, head, and tail — might sound unappetizing, a fried “muikku” has only a mild fishy taste, adn a nice salty crunch. The secret to a good, satisfying, batch of “muikku” lies in the use of real butter — and lots of it. The market square at Helsinki’s south harbor offers some of the best “muikku” I have tried — just look out for hungry sea gulls trying to steal your treat.

Do you have a travel photo that you would like to share? Send it on over to esaatela[at]

What to eat in Helsinki and Finland

What to eat in Helsinki? What are the most famous products that need to be tasted if you visit Helsinki? In this guide to the typical cuisine of Helsinki and Finland we will take you to the discovery of the things that must necessarily be tasted during a trip to Helsinki.

A few years ago someone said Finland was the worst place for foodies but, despite the common thinking, that’s not true at all. When in Helsinki and Finland you need to be ready to eat only local and fresh food, sourced locally and seasonal to discover a world of mouthwatering food, simply cooked and presented. I’ve put together a small food guide on what to eat in Helsinki and Finland and a few resources for food travellers like myself.

Karjalanpiirakka munavoilla — Karelian Pie with Egg Butter

Karelian pie is a Finnish delicacy originating from Karelia, a region located on the eastern side of Finland, bordering on Russia. There are many versions of Karelian pie that you can find at local food stores or in cafes. But the famous ones (and ones you’ll see most often) are the rice Karelian pie and the potato Karelian pie.

Nowadays, you can buy this Finnish delicacy from food stores anywhere in Finland. They are not as good as the homemade version (nothing is as good as homemade!), but the packaged ones aren’t so bad. Plus, they’re cheap!

Almost nobody makes this delicacy from scratch anymore, since the process is so time-consuming, particularly if you haven’t done it previously. Typically, grandmothers make these best (or so the Finns say).

The taste of this delicacy is hard to explain. I imagine a cooled down rice porridge which you ‘wrap’ in rye dough and then bake in the oven until the crust is crispy. Well, it is unusual, but it is also excellent! I highly suggest hunting one down when you visit Finland at some point.

Where do you find Karelian pie?

Local food stores, cafés (try the famous Fazer café in Helsinki) or a Finnish granny’s home.

Helsinki Food & Drink Travel Guide

Helsinki is one of the most fascinating European cities I’ve ever been to: it’s vibrant, it’s coloured, people are trendy and easy going, and the food is just amazing. The secret of the local chefs is choosing the best of the seasonal and local ingredients and combining them to create unique dishes, sometimes very simple, but with flavour that will surprise you.

The city is so dynamic that restaurants, coffee shops and eateries are open pretty much every day, bringing joy to a city which is already happy by itself. I am happy to share with you some of the best experiences I had during my trip. Follow me in this amazing journey and you’ll find yourself in the need of booking the first flight available for Helsinki.

To start off your day with a special Finnish style breakfast, check out Cafe Regatta, an institution in Helsinki with its spectacular view over the Baltic Sea and the small interior built inside a wooden cabin.

Tarjalanpiirakka (the Finnish cinnamon bun) and the blueberry pie are a must try.

The karjalanpiirakka, or karelian pies too, a rye pie filled with rice and a mixture of butter and boiled eggs spread over the top.

In need of something more local? Then head over to Lauttasaari and look for Mutteri Kahvila, a local café where you can have amazing cakes and sandwiches, not to mention the coffee.

Don’t leave Helsinki without having tried Sandro, a modern restaurant by the young Richard McCormick located in Kallio, one of the coolest parts of the city. The menu includes lots of modern style African dishes with vegetarian options do not miss the the saffron bread, the specialty of the house.

If you want to have a light lunch, Finnish style, then Kauppatori market is what you need to check out: located on the harbor of Helsinki, the daily market is the place where you can get fresh food at a lower price than normal. Try the muikku (fried vendaces), the grillimakkara (Finnish sausages) and the lohikeitto (salmon soup).

Other places for a gourmet lunch are Anton & Anton for healthy options, and Café Ursula, strategically located on the Baltic Sea where you can taste different types of rye bread sandwiches.

Dinner is sacre for Finnish people, and this is the moment of the day where you can really satisfy yourself, indulging in some of the best cuisine of Europe.

If you’re in the mood for a Michelin star restaurant, then head over Chef & Sommelier where you can go for a 3, 4, 5, 7 or 9 course menu (wine included). It’s not cheap, but it’s an experience to be tried if you want to come home satisfied and happy.

There are a lot of ravintola (restaurants) everywhere in Helsink, but do not miss the minimalism of Grotesk, the traditional food served by Ravintola Tori and the Lapponian food at Lappi where you can taste the reindeer with potatoes or also eat bear and elk.

Fazer is the institution for desserts in Helsinki. They offer different types of cakes and pastries, and the famous salmiakki ice cream made with black salty licorice you won’t find anywhere else.

For a post dinner drink or just an after work drink, Cargo is the right choice: situated outside the touristic area, Cargo is located in an industrial space, and when the weather is good, you can enjoy a local beer on the terrace!

Kaisla is a local place where you can enjoy a beer and a chat with people from Helsinki, while in Bruuveri your drinks will literally made on site.

Just remember, Finnish people drink a lot, especially in winter time, so I guess after a day of food and drink you’ll need some rest to be ready to start again tomorrow …

I’m an Italian, but Dublin based, food and travel writer. I decided to start my food blog in 2010, when I moved to Ireland. Since then, I’ve been working with brands, companies, tourism boards and magazines producing content, strategies and taken part in cooking shows and events all over the world. Among them, Jamie Oliver, Barilla and many many more. I plan and write while my husband and business partner Giuseppe takes care of the pictures, both food and travel side.

7 Finnish foods that blew me away

I had no expectations about Finnish food before I touched down in Helsinki. I craved seafood, I had my fingers crossed for cloudberries, but that was about it.

So it was a wonderful surprise to discover that this unassuming country has plenty of culinary highlights. Jacques Chirac had no idea what he was talking about when he declared that ˝Finland (is) the country with the worst food

There is a refreshing simplicity in traditional Finnish food (maybe that’s why Chirac baulked) which is due largely to the reliance on what can be found in the forest and ocean. The cuisine has also been influenced by Germany, Russia and Sweden over time, so you might recognise a dish or ingredient here and there.

Kauppatori market hall beside Helsinki harbour

The Finns have a fantastic market culture and Helsinki in particular has some brilliant market halls including Hakaniemi and the recently renovated Kauppatori, positioned right next to Helsinki’s bustling harbour.

If you find yourself in this northern neck of the woods then promise me you will try the following…

Lightly battered and fried vendance

Vendance (muikku)
These tiny fish are a traditional summertime delicacy, especially popular at markets during summer. Similar to whitebait, the fish are lightly breaded and fried, then eaten whole with garlic sauce or lemon. The mild umami flavour and crunchy texture were sensational and they were the perfect snack to enjoy on the boat over to the Suomenlinna fortress.

Yep, that’s Rudolph in a can

Reindeer (poro)
There is a long tradition of hunting in Finland, focusing on reindeer, moose and bear. Put those warm and fuzzy childhood memories of Rudolph aside right now because you will be seeing him everywhere in kebabs, as thick steaks, cold smoked, even canned. He’ll be sitting right next to the canned bear.

Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen…

Reindeer meat has a rich gamey flavour, very similar to venison, and is very lean. The slices of cured reindeer were very tasty but I didn’t go as far as buying reindeer in a can.

100% bear meat. Ingredients: bear meat 90%. Go figure.

I was curious about the canned bear meat, but with a price tag of €20 for a tiny can, I decided my money could be better spent elsewhere… like on these babies!

Karelian pies (Karjalanpiiraka)
These addictive little pies have a thin wheat and rye crust filled with rice or potatoes and are often served with a mixture made from butter and mashed cooked eggs. They originate from Karelia, a region currently divided between Finland and Russia.

Even 7/11´s are stocked with Karelian pies. And they taste fantastic!

They are absolute delicious and available everywhere, including supermarkets and 7/11´s. Not a day passed when I didn’t eat one or two… sometimes three : )

Luscious salmon as far as the eye can see

Fish, fish and more fish
I couldn’t get enough of the fish, especially at the markets. There was so much! It was so fresh! The Finns are masters at the art of smoking and preserving, a necessity to get them through the winter months. Salmon is always a popular choice and you´ll find it cold smoked, raw with lemon, and served on open sandwiches.

Open faced sandwiches with fresh seafood

I particularly fell for the open sandwiches, especially those being sold at the fish stands in the market halls. Toppings included cured salmon, crayfish and sardines. There was something magical about the combination of dense rye bread, lashings of butter and cured salmon in particular. So simple but so beautifully executed. I couldn’t get enough of them.

Fresh chanterelles sit between other mushroom varieties

These delicate mushrooms grow in abundance in the forests and mushroom hunting is a hugely popular pastime. The Finns use them in soups, sauces and stews and also love to pickle them. My favourite way to eat them is simply pan fried with garlic and butter. Lots of butter!

Cloudberries – so special they warrant their own post! If you are fortunate to be in Finland during the two or three weeks these precious berries are in season then YOU MUST BUY SOME. Read my previous post to find out why.

Excuse me bartender, what is that brown stuff beside my cocktail…?

I discovered this magical stuff in the cocktail bar, Liberty or Death. My cocktail of choice, Kyröntappelus, came with a serving of strange looking gloopy dark brown stuff which my bartender informed me was a dessert called mämmi, made from rye, molasses and orange zest.

I gingerly took a bite and fell in love instantly. It had the consistency of a thick porridge and an amazing sweet flavour with malty undertones. I’d never tasted anything like it and i just wanted more. Luckily my lovely bartender acquiesced with some more samples.

Mämmi is traditionally eaten by the Finns at Easter, served cold with either milk or cream and sugar. I searched high and low for it afterwards and eventually found a variation with chocolate in the frozen section of the supermarket. So far I’ve had zero luck finding it outside of Finland so I am going to have to start making it myself and I think this recipe by the Finnish Food Girl could be a winner.

Riisi Muikun Kanssa – Rice with European Cisco

Let’s see… It is clean, clear, cool, not too salty.. Well, I am talking about The Black Sea. The best sea that I ever swam in. But what’s even better is that it is home to the most delicious and special fish: European Anchovy aka Hamsi in Turkish.

European Anchovy is a very delicate fish and there are many dishes made by it in the Black Sea region in Turkey. My absolute favourite among these dishes is Rice with European Anchovy (Hamsili Pilav in Turkish). For this dish to have the best taste, the fish has to be really fresh therefore even while I am Turkey I cannot eat it always – it has to be the right season.

Fresh or not, you cannot find this fish here in Finland.. But you can find “Muikku” aka European Cisco in English. From the moment I saw muikku, I thought that it could be a good substitute for anchovy in this dish, and I was right! Of course it is not exactly the same taste and the original version still beats this one. But well, when you really really miss it, you can perfectly get satisfied with muikku version.

Since I used the fish from here, I gave the whole dish a Finnish name as well: Riisi Muikun Kanssa (Rice with European Cisco – well ok, not very original!). I made it for my guests in the latest “My Dear Kitchen in Helsinki Recipes Evening” and everyone liked it so I can say that it passed the test. If you want to know more about that event, read the related post here:

Muikku is extremely hard to fully clean – European Anchovy is much more easier. But no can do, you HAVE TO take your time, hurt your fingers, be patient and completely clean the fish – you only need the fillets. So if you are patient enough, here is the recipe!

For rice:
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil
3 onions, chopped into small pieces
1 tbsp / 15 ml pine nuts
1 cup / 2.5 dl rice, washed thoroughly and left in 1 lt boiling water for 30 minutes
1 cup / 2.5 dl water
1/2 tsp / 2.5 ml salt
1/2 tsp / 2.5 ml granulated white sugar
1 tsp / 5 ml ground cinnamon
1 tsp / 5 ml black pepper

To assemble:
Vegetable oil, to grease the mould
1 kg European cisco fillets (muikku in Finnish), completely cleaned – no head, no tail, no bones..
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil (to pour on the fish at the last stage)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. In a frying pan, put 1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil and heat it for about 2 minutes in medium high heat.

3. Add onions and sauté them until they are soft.

4. Add pine nuts and stir for half a minute.

5. Add rice and stir for about 2 minutes.

6. Add water, sugar and salt, decrease the heat down to medium, cover the lid of the pan and cook the rice until all the water is absorbed by rice.

7. The pile of rice will have some holes when it is done as seen in the photo. At this stage turn the heat off. Add cinnamon and black pepper and stir it until all ingredients are nicely mixed.

8. Put a baking sheet at the base of a cake mould. Grease the sheets surface as well as the sides of the mould with some vegetable oil. Cover the base and sides of the mould with the fish fillets upside down, as seen in the photo.

9. Add all the rice on the fish fillets.

10. Cover the surface of the rice with more fish fillets. Pour 1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil on the surface. Put the mold in the oven, in middle rack. Bake it for about 20-25 minutes, until the fish are fully cooked, but not burned! This fish shrinks quite a lot when baked so you will have some holes in the fully covered surfaces, no can do… If you use European anchovy, you do not have such a problem..

11. When the dish is baked fully, take it out of the oven and leave it to cool down for a while before taking it out of the mold. At this stage you can add some salt and pepper. When it is fully cooled, take it out of the mold and turn upside down. You can add a little salt and pepper also on this side.

My Dear Kitchen in Helsinki Recipes Evening – February 22, 2014

I woke up to a – yet again – shabby winter morning on Saturday morning. There was not even a hint of Sun, the sky was covered with clouds and what’s worse, it was evident that soon was coming my arch-nemesis when it comes to weather: the rain.. However, I was not at all feeling bad. On the contrary, I was feeling quite happy and excited, because it was yet another “recipes evening” that night!

I realised that I never wrote about it in my blog, so this post will also be an introduction to the event in general.

“My Dear Kitchen in Helsinki Recipes Evening” is an event that I create on Facebook and spread the word via my social network. In the future, I plan to extend the announcement of the event to other platforms but for the time being, it is only through Facebook.

So what happens in this event? Very simple: friends cook my recipes and we taste them altogether!

For each event, I choose several recipes and publish the list on Facebook event page. There are always 2 types of participants: cooks and tasters. The cooks prepare the food, whereas the tasters are responsible from drinks and from, well, tasting! By doing so, I get to test if the recipes are working, the cooks have the opportunity to try cooking something new for them and share with people that they may / may not know and the tasters, being responsible from the drinks, get to think about drinks that would suit the food (and since everyone can see the recipes openly, they know the ingredients and so they can try to find the most suitable drinks, like a type of wine, accordingly).

What do I do? I host the event in my dear kitchen, prepare the space and I cook one dish that I haven’t yet published on neither the blog nor any social network site.

In the latest session that we had last Saturday, February 22nd, there were 3 cooks (plus me as a cook/host), and 5 tasters. There would be one more cook, preparing French macarons, however flu got the best of her right before the event. So we were robbed off from the macarons, but the others were just great.

We started the dinner with “Turkish soup with couscous balls and chick peas”, cooked by Anja, a German friend of mine and my ex-roommate. She loves this soup ever since I first cooked it while she was still living with me, and she even bought many jars of dried mint just to make this soup as much as possible, the last time she was in Berlin, couple of weeks ago.

After soup, we continued with “Cinnamon, Raisin and Walnut Bread” baked by Nihan, my Turkish friend living in Helsinki for a quite long time. Her bread was simply delicious, she said that she was not happy with the look of it, but she had the most important part perfectly: the taste.

When everyone tasted the bread, either just the bread itself since it already had quite rich taste thanks to many ingredients, or with some cheese, I served the main dish, “Riisi Muikun Kanssa – Rice with Cisco”. This was a version of a famous Turkish dish from Black Sea region instead of European anchovy which can be found in Black Sea, I used Muikku – Cisco, a similar fish (well, as similar as possible let’s say..) that I could find here in Helsinki. It still tasted very similar to the real dish though! And the recipe to this dish will be published in the blog soon..

Finally, after the main dish, we had the dessert, “Tahini Roll”, baked by Jana. A dear Macedonian friend of mine, Jana actually made the tahini herself as well – so she took the recipe one step ahead in my opinion. There was still a bit of roll left next day, and it was just lovely to have it with some tea on Sunday evening..

As for the tasters, Baris, Aneta, Laura, Gian and Sirvan, they brought red & white wine and beer. We all enjoyed the food while enjoying the wine that tasters brought and I could tell from their faces that they loved the food! Besides eating, there were interesting and very enjoyable discussions on food, cooking, and of course, as it happens in any event involving foreigners around a table in Finland, we discussed Finnish culture and how we interpret things. I hope that Laura, our only Finnish friend on the table enjoyed our comments too!

All in all, I was so happy with the food, and I was also happy that the cooks managed to prepare all that without the need to call me – which they were free to do, in case they did not understand a step in the recipe. This shows that at least those three recipes work just fine, no? Oh and one more thing: I would not be able to make this event without the contribution of my roommate, Maisa!! She provided her lovely Arabia dishes, otherwise I would have to use some plates that I hate, and maybe even paper plates!! Hmm… I need to have better dishes of the same kind probably, for future events…

Fried Muikku!!

Finns are going to laugh at me for this post but I don’t care. I LOVE fried muikku!

In English we know this little freshwater fish as vendace, Coregonus albula. In Finnish it is muikku. A member of the Salmonidae family the muikku is a type of whitefish found throughout the lakes of northern Europe. It can also be found in the waters of the Gulf of Bothnia near to where I am now. Remember, the gulf is brackish, salty tasting if you get it in your mouth but generally it is rather fresh.

Vendace mainly feed on zooplankton, such as small crustaceans and their larvae. The fish live in schools made up of large groups of individuals. They lay their eggs on pebbly or sandy ground. The length of an adult is normally about 25 centimeters (9.8 in). The maximum age reached by this fish is about ten years.

Traditionally, the muikku is one of – if not THE – most important freshwater commercial fish in the north. The roe is a delicacy. I’ve never had the roe unfortunately. The vendace roe I’ve seen for sale over time has been FAR too expensive for your humble traveller.

Yesterday, I went down to Isokylä where, from time to time, they hold a 1700’s-style market next to a nearly 800-year old church. Generally it is a big crafts fair where people bring their homemade clothing, baskets, carved spoons, remedies, jams and the like and they sell dressed in costumes and, for some, in character. It really isn’t any different than many of the craft fairs we see touring in the states. In fact, what stuns me somehow is that many of the items for sale, particularly the ceramics, are no different that what Americans see at the touring craft fairs that come through places like Taos. There is very little origionality in craft fairs be it in the USA, Finland or what have you….but that is another digression….Given that this is Finland the photography for sale, the carved wooden items and the metal works are the only really unique things to be found.

And the food. Like muikku. I went to Isokylä specifically for the muikku.

It is a pretty simple recipe. The fish are cleaned but not deboned. On most, the bones are so thin and soft you can actually eat them. They are moistened and rolled in a breading made of rye flower, salt and pepper. Then they are fried in butter.

“Always butter!” The woman cooking yesterday told me. “Never cook them in oil. It will ruin them. And no fake butter. Real butter is the only thing!”

Butter saves the world. Again.

So fry them up in butter and serve in a bowl with potatoes, fried onion and a simple garlic sauce. Wonderful. One of my favorite Finland foods.

Oh. And if eating the bones that isn’t your idea of fun then you can hold the muikku up by the tail and easily strip off the meat.

Just don’t forget to eat that delicious, crispy tail. Mmmmmmmm……

Korvapuusti (Cinnamon Rolls)

It will be easy to find these – most cafés in Helsinki, for instance, have korvapuusti on offer all the time. Why, may you ask? Because Finns themselves love them! I’m not even joking you’ll find Finnish people snacking on them with a cup of freshly brewed coffee pretty much anytime of the day. In English, we have similar sweets called cinnamon rolls – but the similarities end here, as korvapuusti is totally a Finnish or Scandinavian thing.

[Related – Skiing in Finland]

Vegan Monday: Pan-fried Okra – Crunchy, Lemony And Lovely

My mother was always amazed that I’ve loved okra so much. She could hardly make me eat many other things that most people love. But with okra, she didn’t need to force me at all – which was odd because nobody in the family except for her and me liked this beautiful vegetable. Oh wait. No it is a fruit, because it has seeds.

I can understand people’s reaction to okra – if it is overcooked, or if you spoil it while cooking, it gets too soft and slimy and this is not pleasant to eat (I don’t like eating that kind of okra either). Some people also don’t like the “hairy” texture on the surface, though I think it’s not disturbing.

This okra dish is very fast and easy to make – about 20 minutes max. You can serve it as a mezze, warm or a bit cold, and you can also eat it like a snack. In Helsinki, it is very hard to find okra, especially fresh okra. Right now you can find it in Stockmann (a bit too expensive though, €20/kg) and in some ethnic markets, like Hauler in Kaisaniemi. You can, though, also make this dish with frozen okra that you can find in Hauler and in Alanya Market (in Itäkeskus) year round.

I hope even if you don’t really like it so much, you can give one more chance to okra with this recipe! It is really tasty and it has many health benefits. Enjoy!

Difficulty: ★☆☆ (Easy)
(serves 4, as a snack)

250 gr. fresh (or frozen) okra, washed well and patted dry
juice of 2 lemons
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp granulated white sugar
salt & pepper to taste

1. Put the okra in a bowl and pour lemon juice. Make sure all okras get the lemon juice (try not to poke them too much). Let them soak in lemon juice for 10 minutes.

2. Drain soaked okra through a strainer – KEEP THE LEMON JUICE!

3. Heat olive oil in a medium pan on medium high heat for half a minute. Toss in the okras and cook for 2 minutes, shaking the pan often.

4. Add sugar and continue cooking & shaking for about 2 more minutes.

5. Add lemon juice that you kept, continue cooking & shaking (sorry for the completely blurry weird photo..) for about 3-5 minutes, until okras are cooked and ok to eat but still keep their bite.

6. Add salt and pepper, cook & shake for half a minute and then transfer to a serving dish / bowl with a slotted spoon or spatula. Enjoy!


  1. Zuluk

    Can fill a blank...

  2. Chen

    the Excellent answer, I congratulate

  3. Caddarik

    Congratulations, you have just a great thought.

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