10 Dec

Happy and upgraded food from home

Did you know that Koreans don’t normally eat the whole dish at once? Or that in Syrian food culture there are endless options for vegetarians? We asked Korean, Syrian, Russian and Nepalese living in Finland to teach us to cook dishes from their culture and explain a little bit of the culture behind the food. Hashem, Namkyu, Nara, Krishna and Maï  encourage you to try out these simple but delicious recipes.

Syrian vegetarian dish: Mjaddarah   مجدّرة


1 cup of green lentils

3 cups of water

1 tablespoon of salt

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 cup of bulgur

3-4 tablespoons of oil

1 sliced onion.


1. Wash 1 cup of green lentils, put in a pan. Add 3 cups of water, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cumin and start to boil.

2. Before lentils become soft, add 1 cup of bulgur (not fine one, normal).

3. Put 3-4 tablespoons of oil, then reduce the heat, leave until it becomes soft and that’s it!

4. Add topping: fry sliced onion until brown and spread it on the Mjaddarah.

Eat with salad or pickles.

Hashem Alsayadi, 33, is originally from Aleppo, Syria. He came as a Master Degree student to the University of Tampere over 10 years ago. Currently he studies at Haaga-Helia applied University.

Describe the taste of this dish?

It is lentil based but with an upgraded taste.

What does this dish mean to you?

It is easy, healthy and a vegetarian dish that I ´ve loved since I was a child (I used to eat it with a little bit of ketchup, adults always gave me the look when I did that).

How did you learn to cook it?

From my mother.

Where do you buy your food?

Most things are available in regular shops but for the right type of bulgur you may want to check a regular oriental shop.

How important is food/eating in your home country?

Syrian cuisine is historically a very rich and diverse cuisine and every city has its special dishes too. If you love meat, you will find a lot of options and ways to cook and serve meat dishes. If you are vegetarian, you have a limitless choice as well, and if you have a sweet tooth, well, do not worry as Syrians got that covered too.

We enjoy a good meal, and it is better when the meal is shared with family and close ones. If you invite guests, you should offer a variety of dishes and appetizers to suit all tastes. Tea is usually served afterwards. Some dishes are specifically for lunch, others are for dinner and some are only eaten for breakfast. However, some dishes can be served always, like hummus.


Korean side dish: Vinegar Seasoned Squid Fish and Cucumber


1 squid fish

1 spring onion

1 cucumber

1 tablespoon of smashed garlic

1 tablespoon of Korean red chilly pepper paste (‘gochujang’)

3 tablespoon of Korean red chilly pepper powder (‘gochugaru’)

1 tablespoon of corn syrup

1 tablespoon of sugar

bit of salt

1 tablespoon of sesame

1 tablespoon of sesame oil

1 or 2 tablespoon of vinegar


1. Chop the cucumber vertically (thick julienne) and pour salt over it. Later wash it in cold water (to remove salt) and dry the water on the surface with a paper towel.

2. Remove the skin of squid fish and make slits with knife on the inner part of the skin. Then cut it in similar size/shape as the chopped cucumber. Put the cut squid fish in boiling water briefly (30seconds) then wash with cold water immediately (to stop it from cooking).

3. Mix cucumber and squid fish with chopped spring onion, smashed garlic, red chili pepper paste and powder, corn syrup, sugar, salt, sesame, sesame oil and vinegar.

4. Koreans don’t normally eat the whole dish at once. You can keep this side dish in a refrigerator and serve it as a small portion to eat with a bowl of rice and soup. Or you can make other Korean side dishes, including Kimchi, and share it together.

5. 맛있게 드세요! (Bon appetite in Korean).


Namkyu Chu, 31, is from Seoul in South Korea, he is a PhD student in design at Aalto University.

Can you describe the taste?

A bit spicy, a mix of sweet and sour.

What does this dish mean to you?

When you lost your appetite, this dish will bring it back.

How did you learn to cook it?

From the internet cook book.

Where do you buy your food?

Asian grocery markets in Helsinki.

How important is food/eating in your home country?

Eating food together used to be very important (literally “putting food to mouth together” means family in Korean words, which are adopted from Chinese character). However, nowadays, family members get busier and they don´t have time to eat together.


Russian desert classic: Blueberry pie



3 eggs

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of flour

50 grams of butter

a bit of milk

a bit of plain yogurt


On top:

1 pack of blueberries (or 2 cups)

Vanilla sugar

50 grams of butter

a bit of flour

1. Preheat oven to 180 Degrees C.

2. Mix three eggs and a cup of sugar together, you can use blender or mixer. Melt butter and add it to the eggs. While mixing add milk and yogurt. Slowly add flour and mix all together.

3. Mix blueberries with vanilla sugar. If the blueberries are frozen, make sure they don’t have much juice. If they do, drain them.

4. Mix cold butter and flour to make crumbles.

5. Take a pan for baking and put some butter all over it to make sure your pie will not stick to it. Put half of the dough and make sure it evenly covers the bottom. Put berries on top. After that cover the rest with the remaining dough. On top, put the crumbles.

6. Bake the pie around 40 minutes.

I recommend serving the pie with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!


Nara Guseynova, 28, comes from Russia. She works as a service designer in Helsinki.

Describe the taste?

It’s summery and fresh.

What does this dish mean to you? 

This pie is a runway to my childhood. My grandma lives in Kaliningrad, which is an isolated area of Russia on the West, next to Poland and Lithuania. When I was a small kid, I used to spend every summer there. I remember long walks in the forest, where we used to pick mushrooms and berries. I remember also the colour of blueberries that used to leave on my hands. That blue and red colour was impossible to clean even on the next day. We made many things from blueberries and this pie is one of them. The recipe is very simple. And it’s possible to use any berries for that (try also cherries).

How did you learn to cook it?

I think I have memories of it from the childhood and this recipe is very simple. I think I just tried to make it when I was a kid and I succeeded.

Where do you buy your food?

In Alepa.

How important is food/eating in your home country?

Very important, it’s a part of the culture to share a meal. We do it very often, in my family every day.


 French and happy: Crêpes


2 eggs

½ l milk

150 grams flour

1 tablespoon of vanilla sugar

2 tablespoons of melted butter

½ teaspoon of salt

(1 tablespoon of rum)


1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with half of the milk.

2. Whip the rest of the milk until the dough is even.

3. Melt a little bit of butter in a warm pan.

4. Poor a little bit of the crepe dough in the pan.

5. Fry approximately 30 seconds on each side.

6. Eat with jam, sugar or melted chocolate.


Maï Soreau, 24, comes from Paris, France. She is a PhD student in Nordic literature at the University of Helsinki. She moved to Helsinki because she fell in love with the peaceful atmosphere of the Finnish capital.

Describe the taste?

The crêpes I cooked can have a very various taste, depending on what you add to the dough, or the filling you eat them with. My favorite is the combination of Nutella, banana, whipped cream and tapered almond. You can also eat them salty, with egg, ham and melted cheese.

What does this dish mean to you?

The crêpes (or crepes) are originally a recipe from Bretagne, a region in the west of France where my grandfather was from. My mother made them when she was in a great mood, so crêpes means fun and happiness to me!

How did you learn to cook it?

From my mother.

Where do you buy your food?

I buy my food in any supermarket, but I especially like to go to Anton & Anton.

How important is food/eating in your home country?

The French gastronomy has a well-deserved reputation: food is very important and we spend a lot of time at the table, eating and drinking wine. If the breakfast is pretty unhealthy with espresso and croissant only, and the lunch is often a quick sandwich, dinners and family meals are an all art – with starter, main dish and dessert, without forgetting the cheese tray of course!


Nepalese dumblings: MO:MO (मो: मो)


Dough for wrappers:

4 cups of all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon of oil

1 cup of water, or as required

1 pinch salt


Vegetarian filling:

For each dumpling piece you need fine cut, chopped or minced vegetarian filling, such as mix of cabbage, onions, garlic, ginger and carrot. Spice it with 1 tsp salt, 1tsp curry powder, ½ red chili powder and 1/2 tsp of butter.

For non-vegetarians:

Add minced meat to the recipe and put less vegetables.


1. Mix all filling ingredients.

2. Make wrappers. Combine flour, salt and water in a bowl. Mix well until the dough becomes similar to pizza. You can use some eggs and oil or butter too. Stir the mixture and cover it with plastic.

3. After 15 minutes, take out the plastic and knead it for few minutes. Divide the dough into small pieces that fits for your dumpling size.

4. Prepare dough balls and roll between your palms to spherical shape.

5. On the board gently flatten the ball with rolling pin.

6. Put about 1 spoon of filling in the middle of wrapper.

7. Bring all edges together to the center. Pinch and twist the edges to ensure that the dumplings is closed.

8. Heat up water in steamer. Oil the steamer rack well. Put dumpling in the steamer. Steam until the dumplings are done, about 10-15 minutes.

Krishna Bagale, 22, from Nepal, studies Engineering IT at Oulu University of applied sciences. He has been living in Finland over 4 years.

Describe the taste of this dish?

Salty, but an amazing spicy taste.

What does this dish mean to you?

It is easy to cook but it takes some time. I am always a fond of it. I’m a vegetarian so I love vegetarian MOMO.

How did you learn to cook it?

By watching how they cook this in restaurants.

Where do you buy your food? 

Almost all the necessary things are available in regular shops in Finland. If you need special kind of ingredients you can go to the big department stores or Asian markets.

How important is food/eating in your home country?

Every time I meet someone who has tasted Nepalese cuisine, I have seen people with joyful faces and an innermost urge of eating more. There are a wide variety of Nepali dishes depending on locations, festivals, casts and so on. If you happen to be in Dashain, Tihar festivals, the mixed dishes will amaze you. Both for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, there are plenty of options.

Elin von Wright

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