A people is a civilization if they like their food - at least, this is our firm conviction. So, we skip the definitely more touristic Old market hall in market square (all tourists want to skip the tourist bits, after all), and head decidedly towards Hakaniemi market, in the north of the city where our hosts tell us locals go.
On the square outside the market proper, there are some stalls, like this one selling berries by the mountain
(We believe the ones above are lingonberries). Inside the brick building, though, what a wonderful space opens up. We skip the boring top floor, which sells clothes, brick a brack, etcetera (but it has some cafes). We go instead for the jugular, and the first stall we bump into is serving cold cuts of meat and herring, porridge, sausages, and there is a scramble to have breakfast with what looks really delicious stuff: but it is so busy, no chance of even taking a picture, unfortunately.
Next up, a well-stocked cheese stall, the stall holder is lovely and friendly like most of the locals:
Further down, there is an impressive array of all sorts of meats on display. Just to indulge in our gruesome streak (remember Budapest market?, here is a suckling pig, who hopefully will be honoured properly at the table:
and, although this is a cold land, you can warm yourself up with a good and wide array of spices:
To the contrary, and suprisingly for us at first, the variety of fish types on offer is not very large - apparently this is what the Baltic sea offers. The Finns remedy this scarcity with plenty of ways to prepare it - and we can assure you the fresh one really is fresh, as anyone can tell by looking at any stall (we saw several specimens still jumping and gasping for air). Here we only show you the very dead ones. First, those cured and available as take away:
Note the roe on the left, very popular around here also in restaurants. Then, the "take back to London" varieties
our choice had to fall on the "Suutarin lohi" (literally shoemaker's salmon), as one of our hosts told us that if there is one thing you have to bring back home, this is it. It is herring marinated in pepper, onions and bay leaves, and some other herbs and vegs we could not identify by sight. Hopefully we'll do better when we tuck in!
But we enjoyed a lot the cooked ones, too:
again, mostly whitefish, salmon and herring. In particular, we are quite fond of the double fillets of Baltic herring (Silakka), so much so that we want to show them in detail:
As you might have suspected for these two carbohydrate foragers, we spent quite some time perusing the bread. There are several stalls, obviously, and here is one:
quite an interesting variety of both decorated types
and elongated shapes
But then, we had to take the Karjalau piirakka (karelia pie, generally with either a potato or rice stuffing, but we saw other stuffings, too), as one of our hosts told us that if there is one thing you have to bring back home, this is it.
And of course, we did buy Zalmiak, as one of our hosts told us that if there is one thing you have to bring back home...this is it!