Introduction to Estonian cuisine

In category: Food & Drink & Nightlife

Last updated 09.12.2016

Source: Mart Vares

Introduction to Estonian cuisine

Source: Mart Vares

Written by:

Piret Saar

Estonians like to know where their food comes from. For this reason, many savvy city dwellers take the time to work the fields and enjoy the fruit of their labour throughout the year. This amount of passion has greatly inspired Estonian restaurants to be creative and use local produce.

A spoonful of Nordic with a twist

Similarly to Estonian culture, the local taste palate has been infused with the best of our neighbouring countries. Here you'll find traces of Scandinavian, Russian and German kitchens, not to mention other mainstream international influencers such as the French nouvelle cuisine.

An ode to the pure, fresh and seasonal

Estonian chefs, food establishments and retailers have a similar understanding of the nature and future of Estonian cuisine, manifesting loyalty to healthy ingredients cooked into simple dishes that reflect the mastery of Nordic culinary traditions. 

Estonian bread – black, white and wholemeal

Bread has at least three different names in Estonian – that's how serious we are about the loaf. Black rye bread with a thin crispy crust is a healthy and very original gift to bring back from your trip to Estonia. You'll find a range of different options in all shapes and sizes from your local supermarket or speciality grocery store with many restaurants also serving freshly baked bread rolls using their own secret recipes. With a spread of Estonia's famous full-fat salty butter, the local bread is sure to tingle your taste buds.

Affordable gourmet food

International and fusion gourmet food can be enjoyed very inexpensively in Estonia, making this a desired destination for foodies. A true five course gourmet feast in Tallinn can cost half the price of a dinner you'd get in most European capitals. Oh, and don't forget the medieval food - have you tried roast bear recently, or maybe a wild boar?

For vegetarians and vegans

Vegetarian and vegan-friendly gourmet joints spring up in Estonia's larger cities like mushrooms after the rain, and while on the topic: have you tried Estonian chanterelles? This woodland mushroom, often considered a delicatessen in Western Europe, comes fresh and inexpensive in Estonia's grocery stores and markets.

Food to try in Estonia

Black bread – look for fresh, handmade loaves baked in Estonia's many organic farms.

Smoked meat and fish – alder wood gives Estonian ham, sausages and meat products a natural and flavourful taste.

Dairy products – have you ever seen such long winding dairy aisles as they exist in Estonian supermarkets? Browse the shops for cheese, curd puddings and chocolate-covered curd bars called "kohuke", as well as yoghurt and sour cream. Some supermarkets even stock up on fresh, unpasteurised milk. Most popular Estonian cheeses are usually either pure-tasting, dense and curdy, or smoked and bold-flavoured.

The great old sauerkraut and black pudding is a vital part of every Christmas dinner in Estonia. The soft and juicy fermented cabbage compliments the spiced sausages topped with cowberry jam. Estonian traditional dessert kama could be considered an acquired taste by some...and a tasty treat by others. This hearty dish is sweet and filling, made of cooked, dried and ground rye, barley and peas, and is best enjoyed with fermented milk, with an optional sweetener of your choice.

Liqueurs – Vana Tallinn spiced rum liqueur is the absolute favourite of locals and visitors alike. You'll also find a range of very unique juniper and caraway-flavoured spirits such as Kännu Kukk.

Kalev chocolates & marzipan – did you know that according to a medieval legend, marzipan was first made in Tallinn as a pharmaceutical experiment? Try it and we bet you'll wish all medicine tasted like Estonian marzipan.

Preserves & cakes – Estonian grandmothers truly are the world champions in jam making and cake baking. Want to taste it for yourself? Well, head to the country or to your local outdoor market for jars of blackcurrant, blueberry or buckthorn jams and pickled vegetables, and try the friendly downtown bakery for fluffy cakes, crumbles and pies. De-licious!

Photos by: Lauri Laan, Piret Saar

Last updated 09.12.2016

In category: Food & Drink & Nightlife

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