Finland – the Japan of Europe

When I settled in Finland, I elaborated this silent theory that Finland is the “Japan of Europe”. Now, before you chew my head off, hear me out. Coming as an outsider I had the privilege to spend time internalize the purist and absolut Nordic design of wooden  & White tones, respecting the authenticity of material and elaborated simplicity in every home I would stepped into. I’ve learned to accept the silent contemplation of the Mökki* lifestyle –it still feels like an endless meditative state to the hyper-urban French, but I accept what seems to be an imperative on the land-. Everywhere I turned, from basic social interactions, to friendly visits, I could feel a massive cultural shift give way to a whirlwind of observations.

photos from DesignBoom

I wasn’t geographically that far away from home, but given the cultural differences, it could have been Japan!

As I looked & listened, it became evident to me that to stay here and be happy here, it was my responsibility to understand the Finns’ need to connect with nature even in the city; their deep sense of unspoken rules that one must simply know and follow for fear of being spited as an “outsider”. Despite of being part of the abstract “Europe” concept I couldn’t shake away this bizarre feeling of having landed in an far away country. All felt oddly familiar at first, but as I would dig deeper, it was evident that some behavior had been defined based on necessity. Like the first time I truly understood that “Sisu” was deeply rooted in each child running through the blizzard, oblivious to the frozen French staring desperately into the raging whiteness. Through the turmoil was a sense of controlled calmness, survival and – dare I say it –  “etiquette”.

Like a self fulfilling prophecy, I kept seeing signs that my “Japan of Europe” theory verified itself even further. In no particular order: the culture of drinking as an activity for which you must apply seriousness & commitment; the nearly automated removal of ones shoes before entering any house and even the reverential art of coffee serving, all of those stroke me as oddly similar to what I fantasize would be everyday life in a Japanese household (replace coffee with green tea…). Almost to an extreme; Finnish culture still resonates to me as the Japanese of the North, and it didn’t help that the language in it’s unknown sonority sounded like a far away invention that I would never master..

This preamble somewhat explains why I have such a passion for highlighting the potential synergies of Japanese food and Finnish food. I am on a quest to prove that my theory holds itself even in the Kitchen! In the fresh fish, just caught and eaten with simple seasoning to this unexpected “Finnish Forest Udon & Bok Choy” fusion, I hope you enjoy the similarities as much as I did!

I was inspired by this post from Daddy & me Foodie beautiful recipe and couldn’t resist giving it a twist by adding some Finnish flavor herbs to the broth.

Finnish Forest Udon soup with  Bok choi:

For the recipe, Simply follow the instructions here, and follow the adjustments below.  If you can spend the time and make your own chicken broth , please do so – It will blow your mind!

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While preparing the chicken broth, I added, pieces of Ginger, Juniper berries, allspice, Finnish dried Mushrooms, some fresh Grapefruit juice, 2 bay leaves, 4 allspice corns and some cayenne pepper. (Santa Maria brand makes a Finnish Forest Spice mix that you can use as well) 

I tested a few techniques to poach the egg, and found that the easiest way is to simply have a very shallow pan, bring it to a simmer, and drop the egg from a glass to the barely moving water for about 3 minutes.

I infused the spices longer than recommended and only removed the cinnamon before serving. I left the start anise throughout. I also added a whole twig of Rosemary and 1 tablespoon of Japanese Rice vinegar (add at the same time as the Soy sauce in the original recipe)

I added some citrus flavor to make up for the fact that I didn’t have Togarashi spice mix

I replaced the scallions with some locally grown red onions sliced really thin and thrown that the last minute

It was spectacular dish. Spicy, fragrant and very satisfying, the poached egg on top simply made it even more indulgent!

Isn’t this dish the concluding evidence that Finland in the Japan of Europe 😉 ?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Absolutely fantastic! I love the modifications you have made and only wish I had the time to make my broth from scratch every time. (having a toddler can be a bit of a time suck, in the best way possible of course 😉 ) Thank you for trying out our recipe and doing something great with it!!! Can’t wait to try your version as time allows!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hungryinhelsinki says:

      I’m with you there! My trick as a mom of 2: setup the slow cooking process during the day. The longer the broth simmers the tastier 😉 then, eat when they sleep so you can actually taste the food!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! Sounds like a great strategy 🙂


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