Food: What do Estonians eat?
Hearty, simple, country food is how traditional Estonian cuisine can be described. Like many countries in Europe, Estonia’s cuisine has been influenced by foods from the neighbouring countries as well as the cuisines of the countries that used to rule Estonia, i.e. Germany, Russia, Denmark and Sweden. The German influence is predominant as Germany ruled Estonia for centuries.
Food here is seasonal and relies heavily on pork, potatoes and garden vegetables. During the cold winters, heavier foods like pork, potatoes (kartulid) and thick heartwarming soups are consumed. The summer diet is totally different and typically consists mainly of green salads and barbecued meat, wild strawberries and other forest berries.
So what are some of the traditional Estonian foods?
Ask any Estonian about their national dishes and invariably their bread soup and curd cheese are mentioned. Many will claim that their ‘leib’ or black bread is the best in the world. So serious are they about their breads that the Estonian version of bon appetit is ‘jätku leiba’ which translates to “may your bread last”.
Other typical foods include:
- hamburger patty with onions (kotlet)
- blood sausage (verivorst) and sauerkraut at Christmas time
- jellied meat (sült) – this sits in the same category as haggis where it’s best not to know what’s in it
- sweet German-style bread knotted and sprinkled with nuts and raisins (kringel), typically served at Estonian birthdays
- cottage cheese cakes and pastries (kohupiim)
Pancakes, beet salad, honey, herring, pickled pumpkin and crayfish are other foods that you’ll commonly see in Estonia. If you’d like to try some traditional Estonian food, have a go at Grandma’s Place or Vanaema Juures where wild boar roast is a regular feature on its menu.
What if blood sausage and jellied meat don’t turn you on?
You needn’t fret because the restaurant scene is quite developed, especially in Tallinn where you have a choice of Argentinian, Brazilian, Caucasian, Chinese, International, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese and many others. The prices are quite reasonable too. A quick glance at the menu of the classy and highly rated Stenhus Restaurant in the Schlössle Hotel shows a four course meal at 44.72 Euro.
Tallinn is a favourite destination for stag parties and week-end booze-ups, so there are plenty of bars and pubs to drink the night away if that’s your pleasure!