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Treats: Finnish chocolate

Geisha Chocolate

Geisha Chocolate

I think this is the last post I’ll share with you about Finland!

What posts have you liked the best? What would you like to try yourself? Let us know in the comments below!

Finishing with dessert

While much of the food I had while in Finland was familiar, there were a few things that were different or unusual. Of everything new, my favorites were of course the sweets!

Fazer is a huge Finnish company with many brands under its umbrella. One brand is Geisha confectionary, with a hazelnut flavour. They have a milk and dark chocolate variation, and I even saw  ice cream bars at the ever-present ice cream stands.

Geisha Chocolate

Geisha Chocolate

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Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Out of town - Europe, Treats

 

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Karelian pasties

“Karelian pasty (karjalanpiirakka) is a traditional Finnish dish made from a thin rye crust with a filling of rice. Butter, often mixed with boiled egg (eggbutter or munavoi), is spread over the hot pastries before eating.” – Wikipedia.

Karelian Pasty

Karelian Pasty

When I first tried a Karelian pasty in a hotel in Vantaa (the Bonus Inn), upon arriving in Finland, I honestly didn’t know what it was. I didn’t realize that it would be topped with anything, so I just ate it on it’s own.  In our hotel buffet, the pasty was slightly warm, which definitely made it better than the cold version I tried later on (also unaware of how it should be eaten…)

It struck me as a labour-intensive item, and everywhere I saw it, it appeared to look identical (just more or less browned) so I presumed it was a mass-produced item.

Lounge in the Bonus Inn

Lounge in the Bonus Inn

Although there are plenty of recipes available for making Karelian pasties, they’re also available ready-made from companies like Vuohelan Herkku Oy. They offer the pasties fresh and frozen, with both rice and potato fillings. They offer gluten-free, egg-free, lactose-free and soy-free alternatives for customers looking for a taste of Finland. You can also connect with Vuohelan Herkku Oy on Facebook (in Finnish).

Lounge in the Bonus Inn

Lounge in the Vantaa Bonus Inn

The pasties were really chewy, and the rye flour made them really dry.  As they were, I didn’t really care for them – but now that I know how they’re supposed to be eaten, I think I’d try them again the RIGHT way if given a chance.  (You know, on my one-day return trip to Finland!)

The Vantaa Bonus Inn was actually really nice, although we only spent one night there between the airport and other travels. The room was clean and efficient (efficient means small compared to American/Canadian hotels), the lobby was nice (although the front entrance would be difficult for anyone with mobility concerns – but the back entrance would be fine) and the buffet was great. I had hoped to check out the sauna while I was there, but with only one night and a fairly early departure the next morning, I didn’t get the chance.

Recipe

I don’t know if I’d try to make these at home, but if you are more confident in the kitchen than I am, here’s the recipe:

Karelian pasties (Karjalanpiirakat)

Ingredients:

1 decilitre water
½ – 1 tsp salt
2½ decilitre rye flour

Rice filling:

2,5 decilitre water
1 litre milk
2,5 decilitre rice
1 tsp salt

Rinse the rice and place it in boiling water. Simmer until most of the water is absorbed. Add the milk, lower the heat to a minimum, and partially cover the pot. Simmer until the milk has been absorbed and the rice has turned into a thick porridge. Season with salt and leave to cool.
Add the flour and salt to the water and mix into a solid, compact dough.
Form the dough into a strip and divide into 12 pieces.
Roll the pieces into flat thin ovals.
Spread some filling on each oval. Then fold the sides towards the center, pinching and making neat pleats along the edge.
Bake at 300 ºC for about 10 minutes.
Brush them well with melted butter or a butter and water mixture.
Place the pasties, separated with baking paper, in a bowl and cover with a towel to soften the crusts.
Serve warm with butter or egg butter which is made by mixing equal parts of butter, (cottage cheese) and chopped hard-boiled egg.

Taken directly from ThisIsFINLAND. Note, a decilitre is approximately half a cup.

Breakfast in the Bonus Inn

Breakfast in the Bonus Inn

I thought that the pasties looked very time-consuming to make, and this video illustrates how to make them, in case you are up for it. Don’t worry, there isn’t any real sound so you don’t have to understand Finnish!

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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Frozen Finnish treats

Salmiakki ice cream novelty

Salmiakki ice cream novelty

According to a website on Finnish cuisine, ice cream dominates the dessert list. “Ice cream has maintained its place as the queen of desserts for a couple of centuries now, although tastes have changed. A hundred years ago, people favoured ice cream flavoured with fresh pineapple, almonds, chestnuts and other nuts. Ice cream with foreign canned fruits and chocolate sauce was regarded as a delicacy in the 1950s. In the present century, wild strawberry ice cream with a garnish of puréed wild strawberries is typically served as a dessert at lunch.” – http://finland.fi/

For me though, I wanted to try some flavours that I couldn’t try at home…

So much to choose from!

So much to choose from!

At the S-Market near our hotel in Helsinki, there was a huge frozen section dedicated to ice cream. There were wire bins upon bins of individual frozen novelties available – so much space that this couldn’t possibly be a seasonal section as far as I could tell, and it was near the front of the store – a popular treat for sure!

It was a hot day, and we didn’t have much for dinner, so we picked out two treats each (ok.. and we love ice cream!) We each selected one of the Magnum treats (mint for me, an unphotographed plain one for my travel companion – who was already eating by the time I got my camera out!). My companion chose a toffee one for the second treat, while I went for the Ingman Lakritsi cone instead…

A few different ice cream novelties

A few different ice cream novelties

Of the four treats we had that night, the Lakritsi was the best! My companion had to snag a bite too of course!

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So good!

The Lakritsi had licorice sprinkles on top of plain ice cream with a licorice core. The Magnum Mint wasn’t so good for me – it was plain vanilla ice cream, and only the chocolate coating had the mint – with tiny mint candies in the chocolate coating. It was crunchy instead of the smooth texture I prefer.

Once we’d tried one licorice ice cream though, we were keen to try another, and this is where it got really good – Salmiakki ice cream. This is a licorice ice cream with a licorice-flavoured coating. I wish we could get these here… I’ll definitely have to keep my eyes open when I get to specialty shops…

licorice & chocolate ice cream novelty

licorice & chocolate ice cream novelty at the Helsinki Airport

As we were leaving Finland, heading to Toronto on FinnAir, to spend the night before returning to Calgary, I went on the hunt for another ice cream treat. I was looking for the Salmiakki ice cream we’d tried before, but the little convenience store in the airport didn’t have it. Instead I picked up this Lakupala bar – which had the same licorice-flavoured coating, but inside was chocolate ice cream. It was good, but not nearly as good as the Salmiakki ice cream bar!

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Out of town - Europe, Treats

 

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I guess I can’t be a Viking

Or

“herring for breakfast”

Herring for breakfast

Herring for breakfast

While I was in holiday in Finland, the main songwriter and singer (Mathias Nygård) for one of my favorite metal bands (Turisas) tweeted:

“Meat, beer, herring, vodka, cabbage, cleavage, more meat, more beer… Polish dinner 10/10”

I presume that some of his followers weren’t keen on the herring, because he then replied:

“Hey! All of you downplaying the herring. If you want to be a Viking, better get used to it. You’re gonna be eating a lot of it. #herring”

Well, I guess I won’t be another Canadian Viking… I tried the herring, and….no.

When I was younger, my (German) father would occasionally get ‘rollmups’ from the deli; pickled herring wrapped around a wedge of pickled cucumber, stabbed through and secure with a toothpick. With the skin on, and bits of onion floating in the brine, they still looked better than they smelled. I’d always be brave, on each newly opened jar, and accept “just one” when he would offer. I kept hoping that I’d acquire a taste for them, and cement my cultural heritage. My mum, who was clearly a quicker study than I was, turned down the offer, usually with a wrinkled nose.

Onions, brine, fish skin… They looked better than they smelled… And they smelt better than they tasted. There wasn’t even any relief in the pickle itself; the flavours of herring permeated the pickle too. The skin side of the fish was vaguely slimy, while the fish itself was just chewy enough that I had to really ‘savour’ it; I couldn’t just swallow it down and forget the taste until the next time a precious jar was unscrewed.

But then I went to Finland…

My first try was at the hotel buffet in Savonlinna. The dining room was lovely, the cereal selection vast, and the herring sitting amongst many other breakfast offerings.

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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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Breakfast for dinner

Well I had hoped to bring you a few more non-Finland posts, but I guess I’m clearly not drinking enough new teas or going out to enough new places for sushi, because I don’t have anything ready to post that isn’t from my trip to Finland. (Or perhaps I just can’t wait to get back there!)

This is actually a kind of silly “oh, look at the unusual names & flavours” post, which perhaps you’ll find silly or funny or useless – but maybe it will also make you think “hmm I wish we had that here!”

A light dinner after those delicious, large Finnish breakfast buffets!

A light dinner after those delicious, large Finnish breakfast buffets!

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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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Dinner at Piatta

After a long day at the castle and museum  in Savonlinna, I wasn’t too keen on just having our hotel buffet for dinner, so near the tourist ferry dock, we stopped for dinner at Piatta, a nice little restaurant which offered not just great food, but a great chance to get out of the rain that began to pour down as we were heading in. Perfect timing!

Dinner at Piatta

Dinner at Piatta

Piatta

Piatta was an excellent choice – an Italian restaurant with a water view and excellent interior atmosphere. To start off they had a seemingly small salad bar. I say ‘seemingly small’ because the options were excellently arranged to create a fantastic salad to start our meal. I piled my plate high with cubed cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes, unripe mozzarella cheese, black olives, shredded carrots, on a bed of lettuce and topped the whole thing with delicious pesto dressing. On the side there were a variety of breads to round off the starter.

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Posted by on October 16, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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Finnish candy treats

Polly "rocks"

Polly “rocks”

In a previous post I mentioned some of the great Finnish candies I tried on my recent summer trip to Finland.  Even if you don’t plan on a visit to a Nordic, Scandinavian, or Baltic country any time soon, you might still find some of these goodies interesting – and maybe be tempted to look for them in a speciality store near you!

Polly Rocks!

I had no idea what a “soft foam dragee” would taste like, but that was one of the candies we picked up on our recent visit to Finland.  Polly, is a candy that looks kind of like a chocolate-covered raisin, just a lot larger, but it’s nothing like that inside.

The first flavour package we picked up was the “Polly Rocks!” flavour, which was lemon, chocolate, and licorice. What a strange flavour combination!  Still, each was really good individually… (but not so much together…)

The licorice was a bit salty, the lemon a little tart, and the chocolate was as expected.  The coating was like chocolate or yoghurt-covered anything… but the inside… that’s where that “soft foam dragee” came into play…

Ok.. so what’s a dragee? Well, Wikipedia told me that it was a small, bite-sized, colourful candy with a hard shell.. well, these candies weren’t hard at all, instead the inside was similar to salt water taffy, but slightly less chewy.  “Foam” was really the more descriptive term!

Licorice, lemon, and chocolate Polly candies

Licorice, lemon, and chocolate Polly candies

Above are the three different flavours of the Polly Rocks bag… chocolate, lemon, and licorice.

Later, amused by the novelty, we also picked up a bag of original flavoured Polly – the original flavours are Vanilla, Arrack, Butterscotch and Chocolate, and each candy was covered in either a dark or milk chocolate coating, like the others we had tried. (Arrack is a distilled alcohol enjoyed in Asia and Southeast Asia.)

I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the different flavours, since the chocolate taste was dominant with all of them for me.

Polly and Turkish Peber

Polly and Turkish Peber

Tyrkisk Pebar

I probably shouldn’t talk about Finnish candies without mentioning Salmiakki – the black licorice flavoured with ammonium chloride which gives the treat a salty, tongue-tingling kick.  There’s even a kiosk in Helsinki devoted to nothing but this treat, such is it’s popularity in Finland!  Visitors make a special stop in Helsinki to pick up some of their favourites… one of my favorites now too, though fortunately (or unfortunately) I can select from a few varieties at local specialty candy stores.  Salty licorice isn’t something terribly new to me, it’s popular in other Nordic countries and The Netherlands and it was first introduced to me by my German father – though apparently it’s quite a shock to other people, and there are some funny YouTube videos of people trying it for the first time.

Tyrkisk Peber (or Turkish Pepper) is a variation on the licorice+salt treat, with a pepper-powdered center in the hard candy. You suck away at the candy, and then suddenly things start to tingle, and fizz like sherbert as the hard candy dissolves and cracks.  Made by the huge food company Fazer (I saw their chocolates everywhere…) I wasn’t sure what to expect, but these quickly became my favorite things of all the candies we tried… I bought the first bag.. then a second… and then a third to pack in my suitcase, and I hate to say it, but they were gone within a month.

Of course.. that meant I was on a bit of a hunt to find more….

There is a company in Finland, Suomikauppa.fi, that has a whole salmiac bundle of goodies available… yum yum yum, but in the meantime, I did find a local importer, Edelweiss Imports in Northwest Calgary which carries the Fazer Tyrkisk Peber candies – too bad right now they’re out of stock! 😦

I did find them in the old candy store in Banff though – and grabbed 6 bags while I was there!

Maku laku

Licorice

Licorice

An interesting runner up to the Tyrkisk Peber candies were these soft, chewy salty licorice – kind of like licorice allsorts, they had a soft filling, and were coated in a salty covering.  Pretty tasty!

I’d pretty much guess that either salty licorice or a love of all things chocolate could define the Finnish sweet palate… what sweets do you think define different countries or areas of the world, and which ones do you love the best? Let us know in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Out of town - Europe, Treats

 

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Fast Food Finnish-style

Hessburger in Savonlinna

Hessburger in Savonlinna

In my previous post I mentioned that I ended up having to pick fast food during my trip to Finland when I got back to the hotel after my concerts. Of course, I took a few snapshots to share here – even though it’s hardly fine dining and isn’t sushi at all, I still thought that some of Happy Sushi Belly’s readers might find some of the differences fun to read.

Hessburger

Finland’s national fast-food hamburger chain is Hessburger, which kind of reminded me of a non-chain place that used to be open near where I live. We visited Hessburger on our first night in Savonlinna, mostly because it was easily seen from a distance, and since it was pretty late, we didn’t want to wander too much to try to find another place that was open.

I think we should have at least looked for a pub or something because I wasn’t too keen on what we ordered. We each had a cheeseburger, fries and a drink, and while the fries were fine and the drink was normal, we didn’t really like the cheeseburger at all. If we knew a bit more Finnish it might have been easier to pick out something more interesting, but being tired… we just weren’t in the mood for big surprises…

McDonalds

McDonalds in Finland is a bit different too – first off they have doughnuts on the menu! No, I didn’t try one, but I did try their coffee drink, which I thought would be a coffee-flavoured milkshake, but instead it was hot coffee with lots of milk, served 3/4 full in a milkshake kind of glass. The picture in the Turku venue made it look like it was coffee and chocolate, and the other flavours appeared to be pear and chocolate, strawberry and chocolate, and vanilla and chocolate – but who knows! (We thought it was ok, but not worth a repeat…)

Chips

Along with excellent Finnish candy, we also tried a few different flavours of old familiar things – like ‘Paprika’ (bell pepper) flavoured Lays potato chips – interesting, but again, not deserving of a repeat snack (unlike some of the candy we tried!). We tried these while sitting on a bench along the Aura River in Turku.

Restaurant boats on the Aura River

Restaurant boats on the Aura River

If you’d like to see some of my previous posts about my trip to Finland, please click the Finland Tag to see them all pulled together for you. If you’re interested in more sights from Savonlinna, I also have a Savonlinna Tag  and a Turku Tag for you to follow! Consider clicking the “Follow” button to the right to subscribe via email, or follow Happy Sushi Belly on Twitter. You can also follow us on Facebook, where you can join other foodies, or just follow along as posts are automatically sent to Facebook as well. Thanks WordPress!

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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Helsinki Market Square

While on vacation in Finland, the last city I visited was the capital Helsinki. I would have loved to ‘play tourist’ a bit while in the gorgeous and vibrant city, but I was there for a much less touristy reason – the annual Tuska Open Air Metal Festival!

Since I was spending three whole days in metalhead bliss seeing some of my favourite bands, live, in their home countries (I’m sure any North American fan of Scandinavian/Nordic metal can agree what a treat this is!) I didn’t really go out too much to eat while in the city. Most evenings I was heading home from the concert grounds too late to get more than just hamburgers (there was both a McDonalds and a Hessburger close to my hotel), and for other meals there were several vendors at the concert grounds, plus there was a grocery store a block away, and across the street was an open-air marketplace.

Market in Helsinki

Market in Helsinki

The marketplace was amazing – bustling with activity! There were many stalls with vendors selling fresh berries like the strawberries above (blueberries were also plentiful!) and many selling flowers as well. There were also vendors selling other fresh produce, nuts, preserved meats, and a few selling consumer goods like leather purses. It reminded me a lot of the Market Square in Turku, and made me envious that we don’t have neighbourhood markets like this in Calgary.


Just like in Turku, we discussed how lovely it would be to bring some of those lovely fresh flowers back to our hotel room – if only the room had a vase!

As a note, this is just one of the market squares (in the Kallio district) – not “the” Market Square, which is near Helsinki’s South Harbour.  The harbour front market square was similar – but was so exceptionally busy that I didn’t get a chance to take any photos. They had similar items for sale, but had a lot more consumer goods along with produce, and seemed to cater more to the tourist market due to their location. (I even saw Reindeer fur items for sale!)

Neat Angel-Demon statue in downtown Helsinki

Neat Angel-Demon statue in downtown Helsinki

I adored my trip to Finland, and can’t wait to go back again. Before going I did look for sushi places, and had picked out a few, however because of my concert schedule, and my travel companion’s disinterest in sushi, I never had the chance to try anything.  Helsinki is known for having amazing food though, like the modern take on South Asian cuisine at Farang. Blogger Foodie In Finland shared a blog post recently – check it out! http://foodieinfinland.blogspot.ca/2012/03/farang-helsinki.html

Want more posts from Helsinki? Follow the Helsinki tag, here on Happy Sushi Belly, or check out the other posts from my trip to Finland with the Finland tag!

If you’re interested in my music travels, check out Throwing Horns Abroad – where I’m sharing some of my music-centric travel adventures!

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Out of town - Europe

 

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Treats: lemon cheesecake

While on the fortress island of Suomenlinna (a short ferry ride from Helsinki’s Market Square) we needed a rest, a drink, and a chance to get out of the sun.

We had lots of options, (including a restaurant with lots of fish dishes) but we were in the mood for lighter fare, so we opted for Café Piper, a small, quaint, summer café with a few seats inside, a few tables outside on the shady, covered patio, and ample seating outside in the sunshine. The café is located on a small hill surrounded by an English-style garden, offering a view into the Gulf of Finland. They offered a small lunch buffet with soup, but instead we picked a lemon cheesecake along with a cold drink.

Yummy lemon cheesecake

Yummy lemon cheesecake

The site where the café currently sits previously was the location for a Roman Catholic chapel and two gazebos.  The current building was constructed in 1928, and it has been a café since it’s construction.  The café location is along a wheelchair accessible route, however the café itself has a small staircase without a ramp.  Some of the seating can be accessed with a wheelchair, though not all of it.  There are, however, other more accessible places to dine on the island(s) for visitors with limited mobility.


The cheesecake was delicious, but not at all what I’d think of to make for a lemon cheesecake. I think this would be super-easy to replicate using a regular cheesecake recipe, and some delicious lemon curd (found in the jams, honey, and other toast-topping section of some grocery stores).

Want more posts from Suomenlinna? Just follow the Suomenlinna tag! You can also check out my other posts from the Helsinki area with the Helsinki tag, or the other posts from my trip to Finland with the Finland tag! If you’re planning a trip to Helsinki yourself, I highly recommend following Visit Helsinki on Twitter @HelsinkiTourism; I followed their feed well before my trip and during as well! (I also walked past their office, but didn’t pop in – Helsinki was so easy to get around – just my iPhone and the maps in our hotel were all we needed!)

Speaking of Twitter… don’t forget to follow @HappySushiBelly on Twitter too!

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Out of town - Europe, Treats

 

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