5 things you didn’t know about Finnish cuisine

5 things you didn’t know about Finnish cuisine

Winter is coming

Text: Janice Sim

Contrary to popular opinion, reindeer meat isn't a staple food amongst Finns

When you think of Finland and Singapore, it's hard to envision the two polarising countries in the same picture, not to mention in the same story. On one hand, it's perennially cold; while on our side, it's blazing hot all year-round. Goes without saying that our cuisines are understandably worlds apart. 

But here's where things are about to get a little interesting. In celebration of Finland's centennial anniversary, renowned Chef Kari Aihinen from legendary restaurant Ravintola Savoy in Helsinki will be joining hands with our nation's award-winning Chef Eric Neo — the executive chef at InterContinental Singapore — for a first-of-its-kind collaboration titled 'Finland-Singapore Culinary Masters'. 

Hosted at the InterContinental Singapore's Ash & Elm, the exclusive 7-course meal will reflect the best Finnish produce and Singaporean flavours all in a single seating. Considering that Finland still remains to be one of Europe's most engimatic countries, we sussed out five things that most of us don't know about the intriguing cuisine, from Chef Kari himself.

Finnish food cuisine collaboration

1. It has a huge spectrum of varietal foods and flavors

"Most people think us Finns just sit in igloos eating dried reindeer, but in fact, we don't — although I have to say reindeer is delicious. Finland has an amazing list of produce all-year long and with Finnish food, everything is about the quality of the ingredients. Whether its arctic char, pine, a mushroom or soy sauce, you must be able to taste the quality of every ingredient by itself as well as the harmony with other flavours on the plate."

2. Rye bread is a staple of the Finnish diet

"Our traditional cuisine has come from humble beginnings with food to comfort and strengthen, rather than to impress. Rye bread is one of our staples and it's something that we can't seem to get enough of. We usually fill it with cold-smoked herring, sour cream and dill, or to soak up hearty soups."

Finnish food cuisine collaboration

3. Finnish food is heavily influenced by Mother Nature

"We embrace everything around us in the sky, in the lakes and on the land. Our summer days provide short, intense growing conditions for fresh fruit and vegetables while autumn brings about wild mushrooms and smoke-infused meats and root vegetables. In spring, the fishing rods come out and that's when you know fresh fish is in abundance — beautiful with foraged herbs and cooked simply on an open fire. Winter has now just begun so you'll see lots of ingredients pickled, smoked, dried or deeply satisfying soups and stews to provide warmth for the upcoming cold."

Finnish food cuisine collaboration

4. It goes best with vodka

"Obviously. Perhaps it's the accessible Russian influence or its warming qualities. But most likely because we, Finns, believe that we produce the best vodka in the world. However in case that vodka comes off too strong, nothing beats a rye-based Napue gin aperitif or a crisp, light beer."  

 5. The desserts here aren't necessarily sweet

"One surprising sweet that is very popular amongst the Finns is salty liquorice, that's flavoured with ammonium chloride. Safe to say, it's definitely an acquired taste. In this upcoming dinner, we have created a liquorice panna cotta — we've tempered the sourness with cream and coupled it with sea buckthorn in a sorbet form, so as to add a hit of tartness."  

The Finland-Singapore Culinary Masters dinner will be held on 10 November. Get your tickets here.