Welcome to the blog of culinary specialities in Estonia: the blog that will take your daring taste buds on a journey, and above all help you to understand a cuisine that we know so little about in the West. Estonia’s culinary specialities are very different from our Franco-Italian cuisines, and will introduce you to some surprising flavours. Ancestral dishes still exist, but Estonian cuisine, like that of many other countries, has been influenced by its neighbours: Scandinavia, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania… so many countries that invite themselves to Tallinn’s tables to add their grain of salt and bring new ingredients. Historically, however, it’s mainly rye bread, pork and dairy products that we find at the table, not forgetting the traditional vodka and beer: Estonia has more than its fair share of the game! If you like beer, the streets of Tallinn and Conseurs are home to a number of independent breweries, but that’s the subject of another blog: don’t be in such a hurry ? Estonian cuisine also means a lot of fish: the country has wide coastlines, so fish naturally makes its way to the plate. Enough chit-chat, let’s get down to the serious business of discovering Estonia’s culinary specialities!

A few rules for being polite to the locals 😀

As in all countries, whether European or international, Estonia has its own rules for having a good time with friends!

  • Invited to eat at an Estonian’s house: don’t expect to visit the house, it’s considered a very private place, so you’ll only see the living room and the kitchen. Don’t be rude to ask to see the rest of the house, unless it’s offered to you.
  • Guests usually bring a bottle of wine with them when they are invited.
  • It’s the host who seats you, you can’t sit at the table without being invited.
  • It is the head of the family who launches the festivities, and no one eats until he or she has wished for a good appetite (Head Isu), or “may your bread last” (Jäktu Leiba). The latter is a reference to the omnipresence of dark bread at the table, for every meal!
  • Vodka! It’ll be served at the end of the meal if you’re considered a VIP guest.
  • It’s always polite to offer to help with cooking and/or cleaning, even if this is usually refused.

Here are a few simple and basic rules to follow to be the cutest Frenchman abroad and make us proud ? We’re joking a bit, but it’s essential to understand, and learn, and above all apply these basic rules of politeness: when you go on a work placement abroad, or even just to visit a country, it’s normal to adapt to the local culture, and adapt the habits and customs of the locals. We make it a point of honour for you to apply them ?

An drink?

But just because you’re at the other end of the European Union doesn’t mean we can’t give you a few tips on how to enjoy an aperitif properly! As explained in the introduction, Estonia has a huge range of beers: Saku is certainly the best known, but there are many others. There’s even one called … Le Mans! Its name is intended to honour a great French city, and Le Mans was chosen as its 24 Hours is very popular in Estonia. And if, like Tommy – hello Little Heart! – you’re not a big fan of alcoholic drinks, you can go for Kali, a drink made from fermented rye, which you can find anywhere. I warn you, it’s pretty thick, but you’ve got to try it – chilled, it’s very refreshing! After that, don’t worry, when you go to the bar it’s just like anywhere else, you can find your small family cola or even the international presses, without any difficulty!

Starters to Estonia

In Estonia, starters are generally cold, based on seasonal vegetables, potato salad, beetroot and, of course, herring! Traditionally, you’ll find little fritters filled with cabbage, meat or carrots, but served hot with a light broth. Fish is often smoked herring, eel or crab. You can also find some river fish such as pike-perch and perch. For herring, I’d advise you to try buying some in a supermarket first: the taste is quite strong and very pronounced. After that, if you’re already a sardine lover (the real ones cook them on the barbecue or stuff themselves into tins), you should be fine: enjoy it quickly.

Estonian dishes

Dark bread on rye: dark bread on rye, and … dark bread on rye! There’s so much variety, you can eat it with every sauce, at every meal, in a restaurant or in a private home! There are certainly as many recipes as there are Estonians! And apart from bread, what else do we eat? Meat and fish. Often, the recipes are based on fruit and mushrooms. There are also dishes based on milk and other dairy products; I can’t hide the fact that on a personal level – that’s just me! – I can’t hide the fact that, personally, I found it rather peculiar – not bad, but peculiar. Pirukas is one of the many typical dishes, but certainly the most international: it’s a meat pie, which can be mixed with other ingredients such as mushrooms. And yes, it really is international: I found some in Paceville in Malta on my way back from an evening out ? They also offer courses in Malta, by the way! Rossolje, is another typical dish, but this time made with herring! I’ll leave you to discover the recipes here, where people far more gifted than me will tell you how to make little family dishes and bring Estonia back home (come on ? ).

And a bit of culture: Satserinna Sõirapäev in Setomaa, in south-east Estonia, delights visitors with a delicious squeaky cheese made from curdled milk and dried meat from a UNESCO-listed smoke sauna. Well, guys, it’s not just French cuisine and excellent couscous that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites! In fact, I invite you to discover a non-exhaustive list on the site here: it’s enough to make you slap your gut.

Desserts in Estonia

Fruit-based desserts, even black bread (there it is again!) and a few pastries make up the bulk of desserts in Estonia; one of the most popular is rhubarb pie. But the most famous is Kringle, which like many Eastern European desserts is cinnamon-based; in it you’ll find yeast, milk, cinnamon, flour, sugar, butter and egg! Kama is another famous dessert – Boruto fans, calm down, it’s not just Boruto, Kawaki and the Otsutsuki who have kama, Estonia has its own. Note my little manga reference: 34 years old, and still a fan of the little family manga. Even if Boruto is still pretty much slammed to the ground next to Naruto: after all, we’re only at the beginning of the story. I hope it takes off, because it’s really a bit long.

To sum up, during your work placement in Estonia, you’ll be able to discover black bread in all its forms, as well as sweet and savoury dishes, which, for us Western Europeans, are very unusual: you’ll really be able to discover new flavours. You don’t need to go to the ends of the earth to get a taste of culinary delights – less than 3 hours’ flight from Paris, and you’ve already got plenty to do! Be prepared to eat fish too, as it’s a fairly popular dish, served regularly. During your work placement in Estonia, if you also want to travel – other than by taste! – we’ve put together a little blog to give you tips and good ideas. And if you ever want to do an internship in Estonia, or in any of the other countries we offer, you can contact us: together we’ll put together the best internship abroad projects for you, so that you can improve your English and quickly gain in skills! The International Horizons team only offers destinations that it has visited itself, so don’t hesitate to ask us lots of questions, we’ve got lots of good tips to give you 😀

For more general questions, visit the International Horizons Internships Abroad FAQ.