Estonia, located in the northern part of Europe, presents a unique blend of culinary influences from its Nordic, Russian, and German roots. Here are some crucial tips to help you navigate through Estonian cuisine.
1. Start with Black Bread
‘Rukkileib’ or black bread, a dense sourdough rye bread, is an Estonian staple. Enjoy it with butter or use it as a base for sandwiches with toppings such as cured fish, cheese, or pickles.
2. Try Traditional Dishes
‘Sült,’ a type of pork jelly or aspic, and ‘verivorst’ or blood sausage are traditional Estonian dishes that you should try. ‘Mulgikapsad,’ a hearty stew made with pork and sauerkraut, is also highly recommended.
3. Explore the Seafood Scene
Due to Estonia’s long coastline and numerous islands, fresh and smoked fish play an essential role in the local diet. Baltic herring, flounder, and smoked eel are popular choices.
4. Sample Local Dairy Products
Estonia is known for its dairy products. Try ‘kohupiim,’ a curd cheese that is often used in desserts. Estonia also produces excellent yogurt, butter, and a variety of cheeses.
5. Indulge in Estonian Desserts
‘Sõrnikud,’ curd cheese fritters, and ‘kohuke,’ a chocolate-covered curd cheese snack, are well-loved. Also, sample ‘kama,’ a traditional dessert made from mixed grains and fermented milk.
6. Enjoy Estonian Beverages
Beer and vodka are common alcoholic drinks, but for something uniquely Estonian, try ‘Vana Tallinn,’ a sweet, dark liqueur. For non-alcoholic options, ‘kali,’ a fermented rye drink, is a traditional favorite.
7. Visit Local Markets
Local markets like the Baltic Station Market in Tallinn provide an opportunity to explore fresh produce, local delicacies, and street food.
8. Discover Modern Estonian Cuisine
Contemporary Estonian cuisine emphasizes local, seasonal ingredients with a modern twist. Dining at high-end Estonian restaurants like ‘NOA’ or ‘Rataskaevu 16’ can be a memorable experience.
9. Understand Estonian Dining Etiquette
Estonians value good manners at the dining table. Remember to say ‘Terviseks’ (To your health) before drinking and ‘Jätku leiba’ (May your bread last) after meals.
10. Engage with Locals
Interacting with locals is the best way to discover hidden culinary gems and understand the culture behind the cuisine.
Estonia offers a fascinating food journey, from hearty traditional dishes and fresh seafood to delectable desserts, unique beverages, and innovative modern cuisine. Whether you’re exploring local markets or dining in upscale restaurants, your Estonian culinary adventure promises to be an enriching and fulfilling experience. Enjoy your gastronomic exploration in Estonia!