The diet of Estonians

Source: Mart Vares, Visit Estonia

The diet of Estonians


Mihkel RaudWriter

Estonians like to eat, and like with many other nations, their eating habits include oddities that can’t be found elsewhere.

While the Russians have okroshka, Finns liqourice, Japanese raw horse meat, Germans Zungenwurst (i.e. pig blood, tongue and oats), Swedes fermented herring and the Chinese thousand-year-old eggs, Estonians have the Baltic herring in tomato sauce, unprocessed cow milk, soft macaroni, mayonnaise and sprat sandwich.

An Estonian family around the dining table

Photo by: Iris Kivisalu, Visit Estonia

What on earth is Baltic herring in tomato sauce? Baltic herring is the official Estonian national fish and for some odd reason Estonians love to eat their finned talisman in tomato sauce. By the way, the sauce is quite tasty (not to mention the herring) and despite the unappealing appearance, it will become tolerable already by the third mouthful. Baltic herring in tomato sauce was practically the only thing available in groceries during the Soviet occupation. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the fish soaked in red sauce still makes Estonians salivate like Pavlov’s dogs.

Although Baltic herring in tomato sauce might not sound like healthy food, contemporary Estonians are a bit of health nuts who don’t happily eat anything that isn’t organic or natural. So Estonians drink only the milk the next door lady has milked straight from the cow’s udder. No extra processing or additives! And Estonians without a next door lady will start up their six-litre engine Hummer and race to the nearest organic food store while ignoring all traffic regulations and lift a box full of organic milk into the trunk.

The breakfast of Estonians include a proper mug of milk

Photo by: Tajo Oja, Visit Estonia

The relationship of Estonian with macaroni is a matter of peculiar interest. Precisely with macaroni because the concept of pasta only appeared in Estonian after the restoration of independence. In Soviet times, Estonians called spaghetti as well as all other types of pasta just that—macaroni. Besides, pasta already has a different meaning in Estonian and this is related more with washing teeth than with gastronomic pleasures.

What’s interesting is that Estonians are convinced that macaroni (and all other types of pasta) should be boiled so soft that it will literally melt inside one’s mouth. If Estonians are served al dente macaroni at a restaurant, they will ask it to be packed in so they can take it home and throw it in a pot and boil it some twenty minutes—only then will the macaroni be as they remember it from their childhood.

The story gets more serious with mayonnaise. Namely, Estonians are confident that only they can make decent mayonnaise, and interestingly enough, they are right. Estonian mayonnaise is unbelievably tasty, especially with boiled eggs or oven-baked salmon. Who hasn’t tasted Estonian mayonnaise, hasn’t tasted mayonnaise. For this experience alone, one should book plane tickets immediately and head straight into the nearest grocery store upon arrival.

Those who can’t go to Estonia right away should try to make a decent Estonian sprat sandwich at home. It does take a little time and patience but the end result is worth it—an Estonian-style sprat sandwich would most definitely get the first place at the World Championship of Sprat Sandwiches, if one would ever be held.

A genuine sprat sandwich

Photo by: Aron Urb, Visit Estonia

Gourmands will surely not get bored in Estonia, but if you happen to get over-saturated with traditional Estonian dishes, you can easily visit Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian and French restaurants among others and find that they are at an excellent level not only in Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu but in many other Estonian towns as well.

Estonian cottage cheese treat

Photo by: Mariann Liimal, Visit Estonia

Check out how foreigners experience Estonia: #EstonianWay!

Last updated : 22.04.2021

In category: Food & Drink & Nightlife