Pea Soup Tradition is Weekly #TBT Passion in Finland

Published in This Is Finland 5.1.2017. 
https://finland.fi/life-society/pea-soup-tradition-is-weekly-tbt-passion-in-finland/

Every Thursday, restaurants all over Finland serve pea soup for lunch, with oven-baked pancakes for dessert. We find the answer to the burning question on everyone’s lips: Why?

peasoupmustard

Finns love this stuff: dark rye bread with butter; a bowl of pea soup with ham, onions and mustard; and a tube of Finnish mustard in case you need more.

Any regular at lunch places in Finland knows what to expect on Thursdays: pea soup is included on the menu. It looks thick and mushy, and, frankly, not all that appetising. However, this mundane dish boasts a grand pedigree. The secret behind its popularity lies in national traditions.

Pea soup goes way back in Finnish culinary history. According to Arja Hopsu-Neuvonen, development manager at Martta Organisation, a Finnish home economics organisation founded in 1899, pea soup may have played a part in Northern culinary circles as early as the Middle Ages.

“It has been found that a dish resembling pea soup was already being cooked during the Greek antiquity,” Hopsu-Neuvonen says. “Over time, various forms of the soup have then developed in different parts of Europe, with different styles of seasoning. The recipe arrived in Finland via Sweden, as so many dishes did.”

Pre-Lent filler

Consisting traditionally of peas with pork shank, onion and mustard, pea soup has several variations. Some cooks like to add carrots, others cream and minced meat. It’s often accompanied by dark Finnish rye bread with butter. Pea soup remains connected with Thursdays, at least in lunch restaurants. In Finnish homes, that is not necessarily the case.

“During the working week, Monday is actually the day when the most pea soup is sold in stores,” says Jussi Mannila, assortment manager at SOK Corporation, owned by a group of retailing cooperatives.

“As far as seasons go, January and February are the time of the year when it clearly sells in larger volumes,” Mannila adds.

That is most likely due to the approach of Lent. The history of pea soup in Finland is closely connected to the arrival of Christianity.

“Preparing pea soup on Thursdays stems from the fasting orders of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages,” says Hopsu-Neuvonen. “Eating heavily on Thursday helped Catholics get through the fasting day on Friday.”

cuttingboard (1)

Consisting traditionally of peas with pork shank, pea soup may have played a part in Northern culinary circles as early as the Middle Ages.

Cold climate favourite

The S Group (the concern behind SOK Corporation), Marttaliitto and the Finnish Literature Society are compiling a book about Finnish cuisine, in honour of Finland celebrating its 100th year of independence next year. In honour of Finland’s national epic,Kalevala, the book is called Ruoka-Kalevala (Food Kalevala). Naturally, pea soup is featured there, too – after all, it is a staple dish everywhere in Finland.

However, certain areas are even more fond of it than others.

“Pea soup sells in bigger numbers in eastern and northern Finland, while in the southern or western parts it’s not quite so popular,” Mannila says. “All in all, there are no signs of its popularity waning.”

With Finland’s chilly winters, it makes sense. Who doesn’t love a bowl of hot soup on a cold winter’s day?

Sweet follow-up

pancake

Thick slices of oven-baked pancake are served for dessert, topped with strawberry jam. The tea towel, called “Metsäpolku” (forest path), is designed by Marja Rautiainen for Lapuan Kankurit.

Usually, pea soup is followed by a thick, oven-made pancake topped with jam. The pancake dough is baked on an oven tray, then cut to rectangular pieces – a truly sweet way to finish off the meal.

Hopsu-Neuvonen confirms that this combination of main course and dessert also meets today’s guidelines for a nutritious meal.

“However, since both dishes are very rich in protein, it would be ideal to accompany pea soup with a dessert that is a little bit lighter,” she says. “But if the temptation of a pancake proves too strong, then instead of strawberry jam, fresh or frozen berries would provide a better topping.”

Ei

Julkaistu Metro-lehdessä 17.9.2015:
http://www.hs.fi/metro/art-2000004994397.html

Elämme mielenkiintoisia aikoja. Suomeen saapuu ennennäkemätön määrä pakolaisia samalla, kun hallitus kurittaa kansaa säästötalkoilla.

Kiihdymme. Suomi suomalaisille! Emme kuitenkaan osaa tarkalleen määritellä, keitä nuo suomalaiset ovat, kuka kvalifioituu kansalaiseksi.

Kiukuttelemme kaikesta. Emme halua likaisiin, vaivalloisiin, matalapalkkaisiin töihin. Emme halua hoitaa vanhuksiamme, mutta emme halua tänne muita heitä hoitamaan. Emme hanki lapsia, koska ne ovat likaisia, vaivalloisia ja vievät rahaa. Emme kuitenkaan halua tänne muidenkaan lapsia. Ikäpyramidi on vääristynyt ja olemme yhtä mieltä siitä, että se tulisi saada oikaistua. Kunhan ei itse joudu tekemään mitään, eikä luopumaan mistään.

Emme halua maksaa sellaisia veroja, jotka laissa on säädetty maksettavaksi. Keplottelemme, ”verosuunnittelemme”, työskentelemme pimeästi. Mutta haluamme toki pitää hyvinvointiyhteiskuntamme.

Jos olemme pörssiyhtiöiden johtajia, muutamme varoinemme pois Suomesta. Ylpeilemme muualla maamme koulutuksen korkealla laadulla ja maksuttomuudella, mutta emme halua antaa omastamme panosta sen jatkuvuuteen, vaan viemme verorahamme muualle.

Emme halua luopua lomista, lomarahoista, sunnuntailisistä tai mistään muustakaan. Teemme kampanjavideon, missä kehotetaan ostamaan kotimaista, tukemaan suomalaista työtä. Kuvaamme videon muualla, koska työvoima on siellä halvempaa.

Jos olemme ministereitä, emme suostu alentamaan palkkaamme. Muiden palkkaa alennamme. Puhumme yhteisistä talkoista, luovumme palkastamme viikoksi. Osallistumme hyväntekeväisyysmielessä, vapaaehtoisuuspohjalta. Muut pakotamme.

On muukalaisia, jotka pitävät Suomea paratiisina. Ja meillä huoli siitä, että nuo ihmiset pilaavat meidän maamme, meidän maineemme, meidän työmoraalimme korkean tason. Vievät ne työt, joita emme halua, ne naiset, joita emme kaipaa, anastavat metsiemme marjat, joita emme jaksa poimia, vaan ostamme ne mieluummin ylihintaan torilta, johon emme halua töihin, koska palkka ei ole korkea ja aikaiset aamuherätykset ovat rankkoja.

Nuo ihmiset uhkaavat uskontoamme, vaikka juuri erosimme porukalla kirkosta.

Spicy street food in the centre of Helsinki

Published in SixDegrees 30.10.2014

New restaurant brings some Mexican sunshine to the office quarter near the railway station. Eatos has rapidly secured its place in the hearts of food lovers, with even the Ambassador of Mexico as a fan.

1. Eatos logo

It is probably the most ideal time of the year to discover some Mexican sizzle in the city of Helsinki. The polar nights are upon us and as the general gloom of November sets in, every means for keeping the winter blues at bay will be needed. Well, here is one top tip: go to Eatos.

I myself visit the place in the quietest time of the day, after lunch, and get to enjoy the full attention of the Restaurant Manager Roshan Salwathura whose sunny appearance is guaranteed to make you forget about any possible worries.

“Eatos has been open for six months now and I have been working here right from the start,” he tells me, smiling.

Right from the start translates as months of work before the doors of Eatos were even opened, as Salwathura was fully involved in the founding process.

“The owner of Eatos, Rama Velagapudi, had come up with the idea of founding a Mexican restaurant in Helsinki during his trips in Berlin where he ate in several such restaurants and fell in love with the Mexican tastes. As a result, the concept of Eatos was born: authentic Mexican street food elevated to the next level,” Salwathura tells.

And it seems that it’s been worth it. Often, all the 70 seats of the house are booked.

“I strongly recommend booking if you wish to come here after 5pm. It’s quite remarkable that we have managed to become so popular in just six months. In fact, we couldn’t have hoped for a better start.”

Starter Tostadas de tinga de pollo.

Healthy starter Tostadas de Tinga de Pollo.

Salwathura says that locals have found the place quickly and many of them have already become regulars. Among the fans of Eatos is the Ambassador of Mexico.

“She thinks that this is the best Mexican restaurant in the country,” he reveals.

“Good food doesn’t have to be expensive”

Reading the menu, one faces a difficult choice between tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, and burritos with varying fillings. Luckily, Salwathura is more than happy to help and brings me a variety of his own favourites to try.

For starters, I have tostadas de tinga de pollo, a deep fried taco with chicken stew, black bean puré, chevize, iceberg lettuce, red shallot, crème fraiche, and coriander. It’s so good: the combination of ingredients works and the deep fried taco’s crispy texture differs satisfyingly from the soft filling. I also try a vegetarian starter, flautas de camote. It contains sweet potato wrapped inside a corn tortilla, as well as crème fraiche, chunky salsa, iceberg lettuce, and cheese crumbs. Both starters are very much satisfactory: good, pure tastes, which make you feel curious about what the kitchen has in store for the following courses.

“We always use fresh ingredients here, and everything is hand-made from the scratch. Microwave oven is completely banned,” Salwathura remarks.

I believe him. The level of effort that has been put into food can always be tasted, and everything here is so rich in taste and just has that je-ne-sais-quoi that only really well prepared food can obtain. Furthermore, the prices are strikingly low, with the most expensive dishes costing only 14,90€ and everything else falling under that. To find something so good and affordable in the centre of Helsinki feels unreal.

Main dish Taco Carnitas

Delicious main dish Taco Carnitas.

“We don’t want to over-price our food. Good food doesn’t have to be expensive, it’s that simple,” Salwathura explains.

This is further proved by the main courses that swiftly arrive to the table. First, I try taco carnitas that can also be ordered as a starter. Taco carnitas are corn tacos that come with grilled pulled pork, herbs, spices, and iceberg lettuce. On the side, there are small cups of salsa roja and salsa verde. Out of all the food I taste during my visit at Eatos, this one is my absolute favourite. In terms of tastes, every ingredient seems to compliment the next. To me, it’s just the perfect dish – delicious and healthy.

Next up is taco pescado, by no means a disappointment either. The beer battered cod with chunky salsa, ice berg lettuce and chipotle cream is almost up there with the taco carnitas, in my books. Salwathura himself names taco pescado as one of his own favourites. Based on my experience at Eatos, it seems that whatever you choose from the menu, you can’t really go wrong.

There’s barely any more room left in my belly at this point but somehow I manage to squeeze in the dessert, too. It’s flan napolitana, a Mexican cream caramel pudding with a hint of rum and Kahlua reduction that is topped with pan-fried hazelnuts. The sweet, soft flan is perfect alongside a cup of roasted coffee – I feel like I’m being well and truly spoiled in this place. And it’s not just me.

Perfect ending to a meal: Eatos' Flan Napolitano.

Perfect ending to a meal: Eatos’ Flan Napolitano.

“Every customer is equally important to us. Our rule is that customer is always right and we want absolutely everyone to leave this place feeling happy,” Salwathura says.

After my experience at Eatos, I cannot but warmly, enthusiastically recommend the place. It’s an escape to a land of delicious, exotic tastes where you can visit pretty often, too, as it’s really not a great burden for the wallet either.

ADDITIONAL INFO:
Eatos
Open Mon-Thu 11-22, Fri 11-00, Sat 15-00
Address: Töölönlahdenkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki
Tel: 020 734 6955
Website: http://www.eatos.fi, also on Facebook.

Alejandro Pedregal

Legal Immigrants

Published in SixDegrees 30.10.2014

Spaniard Alejandro Pedregal has had his struggles in Finland, from surviving with the lack of communication to finding a thick enough coat for winter. Nevertheless, he appreciates the security and stability of Finland, as well as the extensive educational opportunities. Having already left his mark on the Finnish film scene, Alejandro now contemplates leaving the country.

Alejandro Pedregal is a passionate film-maker and chooses his country of residence according to work opportunities in his beloved field. (Alejandro Pedregal)

Alejandro Pedregal is a passionate filmmaker and chooses his country of residence accordingly to work opportunities in his beloved field. (Alejandro Pedregal)

What do you do here in Finland?

I’m working at Aalto University in School of Arts, Design, and Architecture as a researcher, and finishing my doctoral studies hopefully this year. I’m a director and a screenwriter, I have worked for many years in Kuvataideakatemia, through which I established Lens Politica Festival nine years ago. By now, I have passed the festival arranging responsibilities on to others, though – last time I took part in setting it up was in 2011. Since then I have concentrated on my research and film work.

When and how did you end up here?

The first time I came to Finland was in 2001, when I received a grant for a different research I was doing back then to study over here. I was splitting my time between Finland and Spain until 2004 when I decided to officially settle here. I stayed because I got offered a job in Kuvataideakatemia. I’m travelling a lot, often spending time outside the country, but I’m based here.

What attracts you about Finnish culture?

It would have to be the general sense of social respect, some kind of communal feeling. I find it that people are less attached to their families here than for example in Spain but more respectful to people they don’t know. There’s a certain sense of security and stability. The educational opportunities, as well as the quality of education, would also have to be mentioned. What I specifically like is that the society here is horizontal rather than vertical, by which I mean that there’s not such strict hierarchy: it’s easy to gain access to institutions and people in a societal level.

Have you had any worries about your life in Finland?

When I first came here, I didn’t think too much about it as I thought I was only going to be here for a year. After that my worries have had more to do with work rather than the culture. And with certain practicalities, such as learning the language, and whether I’m going to find a thick enough coat for winter! Of course, I miss my family and friends, which sometimes makes it difficult.

How has Finland changed you?

I’m probably not the best to judge on this one myself but I think that certain social, Finnish-oriented things, as those I’ve mentioned, have caught up on me, and maybe some Spanish-oriented things have merged with them. But I must say that it was probably easy for me to adapt to those as I was brought up in a politically active family that paid a lot of attention to education. Due to that, I have always been aware of being socially respectful to others, or so I have tried. So I’d say it’s been more of a transition than a change.

What culture shocks did you experience when coming to Finland?

The lack of verbal communication is sometimes shocking. It also stretches into the lack of emotional communication: people tend not to express their feelings unless you are very, very close. And even then it seems to be a struggle sometimes.

Have you been able to settle and integrate into Finnish society?

I think so. I have friends here, I have a job – I have managed to find my place in this country. Lately, I haven’t been doing so much integrating, though, as I have been working on my thesis – I feel like a hermit locked in most of the time! I’ve had difficulties with the language and some other things, and even though I’ve tried not to make such a big deal out of them, at times they pile up and easily develop into greater obstacles. But generally, I think I have done quite a good job.

What are your future wishes for your life here?

First of all, I want to finish my dissertation. After that I need to find a job within the academic field. Then my doors are open for any new opportunities to come. Being a filmmaker is what I want to do, and I’m not sure I can do it in Finland. I’m not exactly itching to leave and could otherwise stay, but I have been waiting for some work-related things to take place here that haven’t. And that is why I’m open to the option of emigrating.

What is your favourite Finnish word?

I don’t know about a word but the Finnish pronunciation creates funny situations sometimes. For example, the way that the Finns pronounce The Beatles makes it sound like the band was called The Beatless, which I find very amusing. I even thought of starting a mockery band of that name that covers The Beatles’ songs. You wouldn’t have to be very good doing that – I mean, what can you expect if the name of the band is The Beatless!

House beer and legendary burgers

Published in Helsinki Times 25.9.2014

Delicious food, tasty beer, friendly service and affordable prices – what more could you ask from a restaurant? With the microwave oven chucked to the bin, Kuja is driven by love for food and pure tastes.

On its website, Kuja is being described as a combined bar and bistro. The name Kuja, meaning ’alley’, further implies that this is not a place for fine dining but rather an informal and laid-back restaurant that provides on a cosy atmosphere and good food.

As we arrive, it is late afternoon. Kuja has just passed its busy lunchtime period and offers a variety of free tables to choose from, as well as an opportunity to view this month’s photo exhibition featuring bicycle-themed pictures on the walls of the restaurant. A brick wall paired with plain wooden floor boards and simple, black lamps hanging from the ceiling give the place a rough, industrial feel, yet the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming.

interior

Studying the menu, we find that there is a lot to choose from, with meal options stretching from salads and burgers to crêpes and steaks. In the one year and five months the establishment has been open, the burgers – described as legendary – have gained something of a reputation.

“I can’t actually put my finger on what it is that makes them so special. Maybe it’s the quality that comes with food being home-made”, says Kuja’s head chef Mika Launivuo.

”A lot of people have told us that they’ve had their best burgers here.”

Fresh and self-made

The website declares that the chefs have thrown away the microwave oven “because you would end up using it if it’s there”. In addition to that statement, talking to Launivuo one gets an impression that the kitchen staff really is determined to offer authentic, fresh, self-made food without exceptions.

logo

Lunch is served from 11am to 2.30pm and the menu changes every day. However, bread baked daily, fresh salad and tea or coffee are always included. The dinner menu is more permanent, changing just three times a year. Furthermore, an extensive brunch is served on the weekends. Regardless of the day or hour, the kitchen staff put their best efforts into the preparation of all of their food. As a head chef, Launivuo holds the main responsibility in putting the menus together.

“I draw inspiration from cook books and create dishes that are suitable for a bistro. It’s not unusual to have a twist to the food, with either American or Finnish influences,” he says.

“The definition of a bistro for us means making this a place where food is prepared by skilled professionals in a relaxed manner. A laid-back atmosphere with easily approachable staff is also an essential part of it. The key idea is to offer top quality food at affordable prices.”

Kuja seats approximately 60 people, and the terrace holds a further 20 during the summer season. Launivuo says that people from all age groups seem to have found the place, with the clientele stretching from toddlers to the elderly:

“There’s no typical customer.”

Nurtured by art and gigantic burgers

The food arrives swiftly, and is beautifully presented. My choice of meal is smoked salmon, which comes with asparagus, early potatoes and white wine sauce. The sauce is light and foamy, adding a luxurious feel to the dish. The salmon is tender, the asparagus compact. Apart from the white wine sauce, the meal doesn’t surprise with any unusual elements but is perfect for those who love the pure taste of smoked salmon and asparagus. You get exactly what you expect.

smoked salmon

My companion opts for Kuja burger, which proves to be a bit more adventurous choice. The Kuja burger is a gigantic construction made of bread, a beef steak, bacon, fried egg, Cheddar and Emmentaler cheeses, pickled cucumber, tomato, onion, coleslaw, rucola and garlic mayonnaise. The whole creation is only just kept together by a knife stuck through it, and it is exactly as hefty as the list of ingredients would have you expect. In other words, there’s no longer need for wondering why the burgers have gained their legendary reputation. Along with the burger comes also a side order of one’s choice, with an option for either salad, raw root vegetable sticks, deep-fried sweet potato, French fries, or crisps. Mildly put: as our burger arrives with French fries, there is no chance of either of us leaving the place feeling hungry.

We wash the delicious meals down with the house beer, Kujan Ipa, that has been special-made for Kuja and its sister restaurant Café Bar No 9. The ale is of good quality, and sipping it on the sunny terrace tops off the whole experience.

Kuja burger

Launivuo tells that the place is, in fact, specialised in beers, providing an extensive list of ale to choose from:

“The staff has specifically been trained to assist the customers in choosing their beers.”

According to him, August has been the busiest month so far.

“On a daily basis, we get busy during the lunchtime, and then typically around 7 o’clock in the evening.”

Apart from serving hefty meals, Kuja has profiled as a supporter to different forms of culture. In addition to the monthly changing photo exhibition, it took part in the Art goes kapakka event in August.

“Generally, we’re open to all kind of suggestions for co-operation when it comes to events and culture,” Launivuo says.

ADDITIONAL INFO:
Kuja Bar and Bistro, open Mon-Tues 11-22, Wed-Thu 11-00, Fri-Sat 11-2, Sun 11-21
Address: Hakaniemenkatu 7, 00530 Helsinki
Tel: 0400-461 008
E-mail: info@kujabarbistro.fi

A new innovation brings peace-of-mind for memory illness patients and their next of kin

Published in Helsinki Times 18.9.2014

The ActiveMEDI service together with an emergency card was developed to make the health care system more efficient in situations where the medical staff urgently need to know the patient’s medical history. The innovation aims to empower people with Alzheimer’s or other memory disturbances and help them in maintaining a better life quality after the diagnosis.

In Finland, there are approximately 130 000 people with memory-related illnesses, and at least one million Finns are indirectly affected by them. As it is currently the national Muistiviikko (Alzheimer’s Week), a number of events have been planned that discuss how the quality of life of those with Alzheimer’s and other memory-related illnesses could be improved and maintained.

Forming a part of Muistiviikko events, a new innovation called ActiveMEDI was launched last week. Behind the innovation is Solarch Oy, a Finnish startup company that was founded in 2012. During this autumn, the members of Muistiliitto (The Alzheimer Society of Finland) are able to utilise the service first. Later, it will become available to everyone.

Along with the service comes an emergency card, containing all the essential data of the patient’s medical history and the nature of their illness. This is all the information medical staff need to know in a situation where the patient requires treatment immediately and is unable to give that information themselves. The service is launched first for people with memory-related illnesses but there are plans for expansion to include people with other illnesses too. The main idea behind the innovation is to support people in taking an active role when diagnosed with a serious illness.

“We want to empower people to take control of their own illness and lessen the effects of the unpleasant situation in their lives”, says Alireza Hasanpour, the founder and CEO of Solarch Oy.

He was inspired after witnessing closely his own family members and relatives falling ill and the next of kin struggling to come to terms with the situation:

”The thought behind our innovation is to reach into what happens after people come out of the doctor’s office, and how we could help people amidst that confusion.”

Improving abilities

Apart from providing the patient with additional security in their changing circumstances, the emergency service also improves the medical staff’s working abilities in a confusing situation. A QR code on the card enables all the vital information to be easily read. It helps, for example, the paramedics to gain special access to the medical information in cases of emergencies, and for them to know how to best treat the patient.

The CEO and founder of Solarch Oy Alireza Hasanpour has teamed up with experts of the health care sector to develop the ActiveMEDI service.

The CEO and founder of Solarch Oy Alireza Hasanpour has teamed up with experts in the health care sector to develop the ActiveMEDI service. (Alireza Hasanpour)

“Dealing with patients who are unable to give the medical staff the information they need, can be life-threatening. Helping us through the journey and bringing first-class scientific advice to our disposal, our team of advisors and board members include renowned senior authorities within the health sector,” Hasanpour says.

One of them is Tom Silfvast. He is a member of the board of medical expertise, specialising in the developing of Emergency Medical Services in Finland. Silfvast has been a vital part of the developing process of ActiveMEDI, helping Hasanpour and his crew to build the solution for different illness areas, including heart diseases and diabetes, as well as Alzheimer.

Finland as starting point

MP as well as the chairperson of the board of Muistiliitto Merja Mäkisalo-Ropponen, who has initiated an Memory club at the Parliament, says that the service also provides an opportunity for great savings in the societal level.

“The fact is that nearly 70 million euro would be saved annually if as little as five per cent of those currently in institutional care could stay at home or live in communal housing where professional help is available for them when needed. This service helps us to achieve that. Institutional care should be the absolute last resort, it is the most expensive option as well as the most unpleasant from a human point of view,” Mäkisalo-Ropponen says.

Apart from the card, the patients are given a sticker with the same QR code on it. The sticker can be attached on, for example, one’s KELA card. In an emergency situation, anyone with a mobile phone with the code reading abilities can scan the sticker and find out for example who the emergency contact is and call them.

To Solarch Oy, the privacy and security of those with emergency cards is of great importance. The patient or their next of kin can decide themselves what information they want on show when their card is being read through the QR code. Secured servers, SSL secured connections and data encryption ensure that the most private information remains private.

The emergency solution is starting its journey in Finland but the aim is to make the service a global system. Therefore, for example an Alzheimer’s patient will feel more secure in travelling, too.

“I think this country is the perfect platform for an innovation like this because of the high standard of data storage and the diligent following of regulations here. Launching the service in Finland does not require that much effort as people are used to processing data systemically and in a secure manner. Bringing the service to other countries will be easier as per Finland’s good reputation with the handling of private data,” Hasanpour says.

The service will be free for everyone in Finland. During the launching period this autumn, the emergency card can also be obtained free of charge – later on, a small fee will be introduced. The first point of information for those interested in learning more about the service is Muistiliitto where the staff is also happy to help with the process of obtaining the card.

ADDITIONAL INFO:
http://www.muistiliitto.fi
toimisto@muistiliitto.fi

Favela flavours

Published in SixDegrees 28.8.2014
http://www.6d.fi/6d/index.php/columns/59-appetizer/854-favela-flavours

A breath of South American air in Töölö.

Favela facade

Favela brings the street food trend to Töölö.

It’s Wednesday evening and restaurant-bar Favela is buzzing. Having been open for only a day, the amount of people is almost surprising. The age span of the clientele seems to stretch from twenty-somethings to middle aged and beyond. And most importantly, everyone seems visibly in good spirits.

As the name implies, the new restaurant takes its inspiration from Southern America. The place is painted in bright colours and spreads into three different rooms, seating around 70 people. In addition, there’s a terrace outside by Mechelininkatu.

“The menu is also influenced by South American tastes,” manager Niko Peltomaa confirms. Favela has replaced his previous fine dining restaurant in this same location. In Peltomaa’s own words, the fine dining has turned into fun dining.

“We wanted to keep it simple this time – relaxed, easy, no fuss. Everyone’s welcome. Also, street food is something different in this part of town. In Kallio there are already lots of places riding the street food wave but Töölö was still missing its own.”

Favela entrance

The funky restaurant takes inspiration from South America.

The Favela menu consists mainly of sandwiches and salads. With the sandwich, there are three different options: beef, salmon and bean. I opt for the beef, which proves to be a great choice. The bread is of great quality: firm, yet soft, and soy-chilli sauce compliments the beef filling wonderfully. A perfect snack for when that late evening hunger hits you, or when you’re out for the night and need something sturdier than just liquids to fill your stomach with.

“We bake the bread here ourselves every morning from a sourdough starter so it’s always fresh,” Peltomaa tells.

Apart from sandwiches, the menu offers beef or crayfish salad, fish soup and a bean and rice dish. Peltomaa specifically recommends the soup.

“It’s got a twist to it, definitely not your average salmon soup.”

And average it is not. The spicy, zesty taste can be tamed with some mint yoghurt that comes alongside the dish with a piece of white bread. With the sandwich and soup priced 6€ and 7€ respectively, I would say the quality easily meets the price. If you also crave for something sweet, there’s a healthy fruit salad for dessert.

Fish soup

Salmon soup with a twist for those who like it spicy.

“In terms of food, we wanted to bring something different to Töölö. We ourselves like the South American flavours and thought that those cultural vibes would add something fresh to the already quite extensive restaurant scene of Töölö,” Peltomaa says.

A young woman walks in and interrupts us by asking if you are allowed to bring your dog along. Peltomaa replies that taking your pet with you is not a problem here.

“Great, then we will definitely become regulars!” the woman beams.

In the near future, Peltomaa would also like to see live gigs played in Favela.

“We have been thinking about arranging acoustic nights or getting a DJ here at some point.”

View on the street

The atmosphere in Favela is laid-back and everyone’s welcome – even dogs!

The street food has become a bit of a trend in Helsinki of late. Peltomaa says that the usage of lower parts of the carcass has generally become more popular in restaurants due to the economic situation.

“The recession has definitely played its part in the transition, as the street food style of dining and food making is quicker and more cost effective.”

However, the Favela crew think that calling it a trend is an understatement. Although brought on primarily by the current economic situation, Peltomaa himself sees that the fun dining has come to stay.

“I think that the whole eating out habit has taken a new shape recently. People don’t cook at home so much anymore but go out to eat more regularly. Dining out in Helsinki is not such a big deal anymore as it used to be. People are more relaxed about it and we have responded to that easy going mentality.”