EATING LIKE A LOCAL
Pickles, dumplings, and garlic bread-Estonian style.
Pub food often gets forgotten when talking about traditional cuisine. It’s no secret that Estonians have had a long love affair with beer, but what are they eating while enjoying a pint?
While partaking in an unofficial gastronomic pub-crawl of drinking establishments, certain Estonian pub favourites continue to pop up on the snack/appetiser menus. Often described as “õlle kõrvale” or beside your beer you will continue to notice that pelmeenid or dumplings, and garlic bread find their way onto every menu. The dumplings are stuffed with pork and are served either boiled or fried with sour cream. While not traditionally Estonian, these snacks were a Russian import to Estonia during the Soviet period, and a childhood favourite of many Estonian children born in the 1970s-80s. The garlic bread is not what you think – Estonian black bread is cut into tiny cubes and fried in garlic butter, often served with more garlic sauce. If you’re not too concerned about your breath, these will go down very easily after a few pints.
You may also notice that pickles or salted cucumbers come ser- ved with honey and sour cream. To the Western palate, this may seem to be a strange combination but go ahead try it; you won’t be disappointed.
Other, not-so common pub snacks that appear on bar menus are a wide assortment of smoked, salted, or dried fish. Hot smoked fish, often whitefish is a classic accompaniment to beer. Dried fish, like dried sprats are also tasty, but can be very chewy.
What would an Estonian meal be without something of the pork variety? Sliced and pickled tongue can be found on many menus, as well as crispy pig’s ears. The description doesn’t sound too appetising, but the taste certainly is.
Modern Western pub food is slowly creeping onto Tallinn bar menus as well. Chips or wedges are a favourite for soaking up the booze, along with onion rings and different versions of jalapeño poppers. Chicken wings are also appearing on more and more menus, more often baked or smoked, than fried, but still meaty and delicious.
Try these and more at:
Tartu mnt. 50 Tallinn
Väike-Karja 1, Tallinn Old Town
Pikk 39, Tallinn Old Town
TEXT KRISTINA LUPP, PHOTOS ANDREI CHERTKOV