Helsinki’s Hietalahti Market Hall: Sundry of Flavours

Over a century old, Hietalahti Market Hall has gone through a lot of changes. Starting as a central trading hall for merchants in the early 1900’s until the 1970’s, to becoming an all organic market hall for a while, and to now as to what most locals and tourists knows, a food hall.

”Hietalahti Market Hall yields diverse flavours of food cultures all under one roof” to be exact.

Our apartment is about 5 minutes away from this market hall and me and my boyfriend would pass by here as often as we could. We both have our own favorites, of course, but we have also a couple of stalls that we’d hang out for hours together.

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Around November 2015, a Saturday Music and Food Tasting event, Musaa&Maistelua came into existence. Food stalls and food merchants showcasing their tasting portions for the public every Saturday evening from 5pm-10pm with a DJ playing local and world music from bossa nova, to old French Riviera, and to even old Finnish country music. We have been visiting a couple of times to support the event, and of course, to eat and dine with good friends. Meeting new people here is one good thing also as you can go around with your food and wine or sit at the communal table located in front of the main entrance.

Now that the autumn season is here, more people are dining indoors. Gone are the summer days of terrace wine & dine scene and the outdoor picnics by the beaches and the parks where you get a good amount of that happy sunshine and nature boost in to your system. Now it’s time for us here in Helsinki to start getting cozy and wrapped up for the cold short days (yes, 3 hours of sunshine at the shortest is not counted as a day for me) and for the long dark nights.

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But that doesn’t mean we cannot have a good time! We are ecstatic (not with the upcoming -25ºC winter season) to have to see and experience again our local market hall filled with eager diners wandering around the hallways sipping through their honey-graham milkshakes or relishing their glass of red vinos, the lingering smell of simmering curries, wafts of sweet gingery teriyaki from the Japanese hot plate, the pleasantly stinky smell of cheeses and aged charcuteries from the cheese stall, and this wine braised mussels from the French bistro all coming through your senses as you go around the high-ceiling wooden hallways. It’s heaven. It is!

As much as I would want to go through all the food stalls in the market hall, I will start featuring a couple for this article and would go through the rest for another time (I have my hips and my wallet to look after as well, hihi.)

On a typically gloomy autumn afternoon, the market hall’s façade may seem deserted. The empty spaces from the square from summer time’s flea market makes it even more unsought for.

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But as you go closer to the entrance, you get a whiff of something pleasantly inviting..
The scent of roasted coffee dripping from the machine or maybe a comforting sweet smell of cardamom-spiced buns pulling you to the doorsteps.You see a glimpse of warm luminous light from the inside and you suddenly feel homey and want to snug your hand around a cup of warm drink … or wine.
It is this sort of enchanting feeling that you get from something unknown that is in front of you and you are just drawn to explore it further. With your palate.
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I chose to come here early before the busy hours so I can show how quaint but spacious the market hall is. As empty as it may seem, when the music starts to fill and echo the hallways, people will start filling in the seats. Crowds will start lining up for something to eat or drink. For some, well, they would usually scout the area, see what’s what on each stall’s tasting menu, and then calibrate the evening’s belly plans for indulging a ‘made-up mental 5-course menu’ from the evening’s event (I may be speaking about how I tackle this event).

The Battle Begins!!

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Kitty’s Milkshake Bar

is the first milkshake bar in Finland. I am in total bliss of euphoric happiness when I found out that they have opened their shop at the market hall Spring time this year. Mike and Saana are the owners of this 50’s vintage-diner themed stall and they are surely 99.9% of the time there at the stall to make you their signature milkshakes. The warm, cheerful greetings and small chats makes you feel like you’re amongst good friends. Happiness is contagious here! The stall boasts of colorful decors of old license plates on one side, a hand-written menu, jars of assorted toppings and fillings all lined up for function and for style.

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Mike and Saana are one of the few adorable, cheerful, and crazy-fun people you will meet at the market hall. From their bestsellers Peanut butter Cup and Harri the Cookie Monster to Rebellious Rhubarb and Mary Cherry, their menu, both the name and the flavour combinations are very reflective of their personalities. During the Saturday event, they offer off-the-menu milkshake shots alongside their normal menu.

Next stop!

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(formerly Mr. Onigiri) opened their doors last summer to the public. The owners Haruka and Ray manages the stall by themselves. Their cooking style focuses on traditonal Japanese flavours and healthy organic ingredients. They are their own advocates when it comes to healthy, good eating. Haruka and Ray are at all times delighted to engage into conversations with their customers about their experiences with their products and its origin. They are a very down-to-earth couple and This approach has quickly attracted regular customers to dine at their stall.  As a plus,  The decor is uniquely Japanese in its own way that blends in with the old wooden theme of the food hall. They serve Rice Burgers, Edamame, Tamago&Gohan, and Matcha. On Saturdays they have been serving Chicken or Salmon Teriyaki on Rice. The smell of simmering teriyaki from their store would move you with pleasure for sure. It’s a winner!

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Mama’s Deli

features artisan-baked Spanish breads and pastries. This rustic home-y stall is filled with all sorts of shapes and flavours of their leavened wonders waiting to be taken home. They also serve home-made cakes, fresh brewed coffees, sandwiches and hotdogs for when you want to retreat from the cold weather outside and enjoy a cuppa. My favorite by far from Mama’s Deli’s their gelato selection. It’s very limited but the flavours you can avail is well worth the trip. For instance, the Mascarpone and berry gelato gives you a swirl of sweet tang of berries with the smooth, almost-savoury mascarpone gelato. heaven! Paula, the owner is a sweet lady and she is happy to give a chat or two. She would happily recommend you what bread would suit for whatever dinner or food gathering you might have.

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Say Cheese & Co.

has been around for a couple of years already in the market hall. Ricardo and Andre (both Portuguese) operates this cheese-filled stall. Like every stall in the market hall, they are very hands-on with their business. Their presence makes the stall unique on it’s own. Hailing from Portugal, these two knows their flavours. With the variety of cheeses from Europe and elsewhere alongside their charcuterie selection, Ricardo and Andre travels around to scour for the best finds to feature on their stall. Their cheese and charcuterie board is one of the best sellers in the market hall especially on the Saturday event. Also, they have collaborated with a local Portuguese cafe called ‘Cale Cafe’ which caters more on traditional Portuguese savouries, pastries and sweets such as the famous Pasteis de Nata. Owned by Maria who has been living here in Finland for a while now, she incorporates local flavours and ingredients with some of her traditional home-grown flavours to her dishes. Come by the stall and you’ll be entertained by all of them!

Now, to wrap up this tale of flavour adventure, I am buoyantly happy to say that this is part of my neighbourhood. I would be in giggles and bubbles to show my friends around the hallways of this market hall at any time. I am happy to feature and to introduce a good find in Helsinki through this blog. Especially this cold season where a warm, cozy area doesn’t JUST subject you to plump down and be fixed in one dining room and be bound to socialise amongst each other solely. It’s good to meet new people and nourish your self with good food and music at the same time. This is one of the places where almost everyone I see and pass by, has a smile on their face. And frankly, we need more smiles and good vibes to warm this place up a bit for the upcoming winter season. ♥

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