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Finnish culinary terms for food lovers

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Finnish cuisine is a delightful mix of traditional recipes influenced by neighboring cultures and modern culinary innovations. Whether you are a food lover or just intrigued by the language, here are some essential Finnish culinary terms to enhance your dining experience or cooking skills.

Ruoka means food in Finnish. It encompasses everything edible, from appetizers to main courses and desserts. This general term is a staple in Finnish culinary vocabulary and is certain to be one of the first words you’ll learn.
Mitä ruokaa teillä on tarjolla? (What food do you have on offer?)

Leipä is the Finnish word for bread. Bread is a cornerstone of Finnish meals and comes in various forms such as rye bread (ruisleipä) or sourdough (hapanleipä).
Leipä on tuoretta ja itsetehtyä. (The bread is fresh and homemade.)

A keitto is a soup. Finnish soups are often hearty and made with ingredients like potatoes, carrots, and meats like salmon or reindeer.
Tänään lounaaksi on hernekeitto. (Today’s lunch is pea soup.)

A leivonnainen refers to any baked good or pastry. Finland is known for its array of delicious pastries, such as korvapuusti (cinnamon rolls) and pulla (sweet buns).
Ottaisinko korvapuustin vai muun leivonnaisen? (Should I take a cinnamon roll or another type of pastry?)

Piirakka is a pie or tart. A traditional Finnish piirakka is often filled with rice or mashed potatoes and can be topped with egg butter.
Karjalanpiirakka on suosittu suomalainen piirakka. (Karelian pie is a popular Finnish pastry.)

Alkuruoka translates to an appetizer or starter. These small dishes are served before the main course and can range from cold cuts to fresh salads.
Alkuruoaksi tarjoillaan graavilohta. (Gravlax is served as an appetizer.)

Pääruoka is the main course. In a Finnish meal, the pääruoka often includes fish, meat, or poultry, accompanied by potatoes and vegetables.
Pääruoaksi on tänään lohta ja perunamuusia. (Today’s main course is salmon with mashed potatoes.)

Jälkiruoka is a dessert. Finnish desserts often include berries, such as cloudberry or lingonberry, and are sometimes served with cream or ice cream.
Jälkiruoaksi on mustikkapiirakkaa ja vaniljakastiketta. (For dessert, there is blueberry pie with vanilla sauce.)

Mauste means spice or seasoning. These are used to enhance the flavor of Finnish dishes and include common ones like salt (suola) and pepper (pippuri), as well as dill (tilli), frequently used with fish dishes.
Lisää ruokaan hieman maustetta, niin maku paranee. (Add some spice to the dish to improve its flavor.)

Uuni is an oven. Many Finnish recipes involve baking, whether it’s their traditional bread or a delicious casserole.
Laita piirakka uuniin noin kolmekymmentä minuuttia. (Put the pie in the oven for about thirty minutes.)

Paistinpannu is a frying pan or skillet. This cooking implement is used to fry or sauté foods such as pancakes (lettu) or meats.
Kuumenna paistinpannu ennen lihan lisäämistä. (Heat the frying pan before adding the meat.)

Lautanen means plate. It’s what you’ll be served your delicious Finnish meals on, whether you are at a restaurant or enjoying home-cooked fare.
Ole hyvä ja vie tyhjät lautaset keittiöön. (Please take the empty plates to the kitchen.)

Through these Finnish culinary terms, you’ll not only be equipped to navigate dining menus but also to engage in conversations about food and cooking with Finnish speakers. The next time you find yourself in a Finnish restaurant or in the kitchen preparing a Finnish recipe, test out your vocabulary and relish the tastes and textures of Finland’s culinary delights.

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