Last weekend saw me pack my little red suitcase for what was to be a hectic weekend: flight out to Stockholm late Friday night, a day in Stockholm, cruise to Helsinki overnight on the Silja Line, and a day in Helsinki, then back in the London gloom. It was my first time in Stockholm, but I’d been to Helsinki before, because that’s my boyfriend’s home town. Well, kinda. He’s Finnish-Australian, like I’m Malaysian-Chinese-Australian, which is a bit of a mouthful but eeek, imagine if we had kids? Finnish-Malaysian-Chinese-Australian? Wait a minute, did I say kids? Phwoarr… what a brain fart! I totally hope that he doesn’t actually read this blog!
Anyhoos, diversion. Food. Though we only spent a day here and a day there (and half the meal potentials were wasted on the cruise buffet), I can solemnly say that on this trip, I had the best meatballs I’ve ever had. Ever. And this time, I’m really not exaggerating.
Before I get started on the meatballs (because there is a good chance I may never stop), I have to say that I am again amazed at how much the Scandinavians (although, Finland is technically not part of Scandinavia) love their berries. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, lingonberries, red berries, gooseberries, cloudberries, even blackberries (no, not the phone, we’re in Nokia land). Freshly picked that morning and straight to the market stalls, the berries go for as little as 1€ per punnet and are simply the freshest, sweetest, juiciest of their kind.
I could’ve probably gorged myself on berries in Stockholm, but that would have taken up prime meatball real estate, so ’twas a good thing I exercised some self control, because dude, I did not expect the meatballs to be so magnificently awesome.
The lead: Not just any IKEA meatball
I have one day in Sweden, what am I going to eat? No, don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question. I mean, what did you think I was going to eat? Steak? I hear they’re good. Seafood? Freshest fish in Europe, apparently. Japansk mat? Not likely. Meatballs, people, meatballs. In Australia, meatballs were pretty much a part of my staple diet. IKEA meatballs, that is. We’d buy something, anything and you know, surely we needed another self-assembled IKEA storage unit to keep this thing in, and yay! Off we go to IKEA, to seek out some flat-packed storage box, but mainly to enjoy some good simple meatballs and a $1 hotdog (which I hear are much more than $1 now, damn inflation).
So I’m in Sweden and all I want is meatballs for lunch. I didn’t think they would be all that different to the IKEA variety, and surely didn’t expect anything extraordinary. We ate at Kryp In, a bit away from the tourist fanfare, ordered meatballs, and wow, little did I know my culinary life was about to change.
Here’s the thing, I’m really bad at describing food, and even worse at describing the flavours, textures and emotions, all bursting in my mouth. My tastebuds are incoherent at best, they can’t tell me exactly what they like, they just like it all. So I don’t know how I’m going to explain how mind-numbingly delicious this is.
Here goes anyway. The meatballs were served with a cream sauce, crushed potatoes, lingonberries and pickled cucumber. Firstly, the meatballs were not round, they were oblong, more like little meatloaves. The flavours were intensely rich, but not overwhelmingly so. Just the right balance of meaty, salty, sweet and everything else that’s perfect (and that I can’t describe). The texture was also incredible ~ soft, but not airy and empty, more like a perfect bitesized piece of steak, packed with solid meaty oomph, while disarmingly melt-in-your-mouth.
Even the sides were good. The crushed potatoes were just that ~ crushed, not mashed. They were the consistency of chunky mash (which I love), made even more perfect with buttery goodness. The lingonberries, while a tad sour on their own, were a match made in heaven with the meatballs, and the cucumber, well I love pickled cucumber (vinegar and sugar goodness!) so, no complaints there.
The gist of it? Absolutely toe-curling.
[My brain hurts from all that describing]
Aside from the meatballs, I also started with white asparagus with truffle flavoured butter and tvärno ham crisp (which was tasty, although a little overcooked and really, what was I going to do with a lump of butter, truffle flavoured or not. The tvärno ham crisp however was crisp, delightfully salty and I wished I had more) and ended with a citrus cheesecake with cardamom and warm cloudberries (cheesecake win, cloudberries lose, but my boyfriend tells me it’s an acquired taste. Hmm, I ain’t in no rush to acquire none of that).
So that was my meal in Stockholm. And I will forever have the taste of delumpcious Swedish meatballs branded into my one-track mind.
The star: Meatpies, not balls
The eating-fest in Helsinki was mucho tamo compared to Stockholm. We only had five hours and because I’m obsessed with the Finnish meatpie, we really had zero decisions to make.
We made our way to the food market by the harbour, waded our way through waves of berries (and berry-eaters), and ordered a Lihapiirakka. The Finnish meatpie is essentially a tasty mix of mince and rice encased in soft sweet bread. Simple, delicious, satisfying. You can order it plain, like I did this time, or with a choice of filling, like I did last time, with the lot (which includes pickles, salad, sausage, egg and a decent helping of mustard and ketchup).
Whatever way you have it, meatpie win.
And the support acts
No visit to Helsinki is complete without a mandatory giant cinnamon scroll. These things are the size of my noggin’ no joke, but they are so fresh and airy that you just inhale the thing, sticky bits and sugary tops in tow. On this trip, we chillaxed at Strindberg Cafe, but the famous cinnamon scrolls are a couple of doors down at Cafe Esplanad, both on the Pohjois-Esplanadi (North Esplanade).
Another highlight of the trip was that I was raw-pea-devirginised. In my utterly sheltered upbringing, I have only consumed such food as monkey, sting ray and bird saliva (mmmmm), and somehow I managed to not ever, not once ever eat a raw pea. Well, we’ve remediated that problem. Amongst the fresh berry market stalls we found a little Finnish-speaking Chinese man (so. weird.) selling fresh peas in their pods, so we had to buy some (if only to hear him speak more Finnish). Gah, the peas were so cute I didn’t wanna eat them. But I did.
Much like that weekend trip to Lille, where I pinky swear I did get some site seeing under my belt (which by now is out a couple of notches), we managed to wander around both towns and absorb a little Scandi-culture. We checked out Royal Palaces, churches, cute old cobbled streets and oh, Stockholm’s narrowest street – and not being mean or anything but fat people, you gotta take a detour.
Wow, that was one long ass post and thank you if you are still with me. But before I let you go, one more thing. The cruise from Stockholm to Helsinki was enjoyable (restaurants, bars, casinos and even a night club), the highlight being duty free shopping and oh yes, we stocked up. Ever tried a Suku Laku? Cos believe me, you haven’t lived until you do.
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