Why is it always exciting to dine in Estonia?

    10.06.2020 Aivar Hanson
    The history of the territory that became modern-day Estonia is pretty well documented, but this knowledge does not cover everything. For example, there are major gaps in the history of our food. We consider our traditional food to be simple peasant cooking, but the food and dining habits in the manor houses of foreign nobility and in all kinds of dining establishments in the cities add some mystery to the equation.

    Nothing that is grown in Estonia is not grown somewhere else as well, just as we do not have dishes that are firmly ours and not anyone else’s. When it comes to popular dishes in Estonia, potato salad is from Russia, where it was originally known as ‘Olivier salad’ and later as the capital’s salad. Aspic and sauerkraut originate from Germany and came to Estonia through the kitchens of manor houses. Finally, the beloved blood sausage is eaten in one way or another all around the world. Regardless of where the recipes come from, it has always been a matter of honour for every Estonian family to serve food worthy of their guests’ praise. 

    The uniqueness of Estonian food lies in the way we prepare it. Anyone can experience this in our finer restaurants. Even at home, everyone bakes our great favourite – rye bread – each in a slightly unique way. Dishes that are well known in the cuisines of neighbouring countries are also prepared somewhat distinctively in Estonia. Be it aspic, sauerkraut, or potato salad, in modern Estonian food, history meets the present. Local ingredients are paired with exotic ones on the same plate, and cuisines that usually do not mix are brought together.

    When looking at national borders, often food is found on one side and not the other. Take the example of the Finnish-Russian border, where Russian dishes are not commonly found on Finnish tables and vice versa. And so it is in many countries and border regions. But there are some exceptions such as Switzerland... and Estonia!

    German heritage meets Russian traditions on Estonian plates. Dishes made from local Nordic ingredients are prepared using cooking techniques that originate from France. The most respected chefs are the ones whose well-known (or even completely unknown) dishes are utterly their own. Our four unique seasons are four different reasons to come to Estonia to see how the food on our tables vastly changes every three months. The first fresh flavours of early spring taste like ramson and ground elder, while winter dishes are cooked with frozen, salted, smoked, acidified, and dried ingredients.

    Restaurant Ö offers traditional Estonian cuisine and local ingredients in the most refined gastronomic forms while LeibFarm, and Fotografiska reinvent the traditions of local cuisine – each in their own way. You can also conveniently buy some traditional culinary treats to go at one of Hää Eesti Asi stores located at Tallinn Airport.
    In the last five years, modern Estonian food has gained an equally exciting counterpart in the form of Estonian craft drinks. The latter is currently even more popular and talked about. Beer has always been our ‘wine’, so it is not the abundance of different beers that is surprising but the world-class level at which they are brewed. You’ll also find easily pairable home-made berry wines, ciders made in the champagne method, not easily found elsewhere, and local gins from juniper-rich Estonia that should naturally be in a class of their own!