Sunday, March 18, 2012

Finnish Food: Karelian Pies / Karjalanpiirakat

What is a Karelian Pie?

Let's look at the name.

Karelia refers to the geographic location of what used to be Finland and is now Finland and Russia (for more information, read about the Winter War). Karelia is now divided into two parts in Finland, North and South Karelia. The city where I live, Lappeenranta, is part of South Karlia.  While Karelian pies are available outside of this area, they are more common in the Karelia areas.

(all Finns shed silent tear...)

Now the second part.

Well, it's not a pie.

It's actually a form of "pasty", a food item that has a filling and a pastry or dough shell wrapped around it.

The pasty, or "pie" can be filled with either potato filling or rice filling.

Like this:

Karelian pie with potato filling

Karelian pie with rice filling

The dough wrapped around the filling is rye or rye/wheat.

While there are more modern or inventive fillings, these are the traditional two and the most commonly found.

The pies themselves can be bought in markets in the frozen section, in the refrigerated  section or in the bakery section and they can be bought fresh from bakeries. They come in small, medium and large sizes... you can buy cocktail pies that you can hold with two fingers and eat or large pies that take at least one hand to hold and eat. You can even buy regional varieties like the Imatra (a city northeast from Lappeenranta, also part of South Karelia) variety.

Today, Niko and I bought a frozen bag of Karelian pies.

These have rice filling and are wrapped in rye/wheat dough.

Here's what they look like pre-cooked:

They go in the oven for about 20 minutes. While they are baking, the most essential ingredient is made.


Munavoi is a compound word made up of two words...muna and voi. Muna means egg and voi means butter. It's pretty simple. Boil eggs, melt butter, mix together in a bowl.

This topping is almost always served on top of Karelian pies and is supposedly a Finnish invention. Karelian pies are also the only (traditional) way to use it or eat it.

Once the Karelian pies are done baking, they are taken out of the oven and glazed with some butter.

After that, let cool, add toppings of your choice and enjoy.

Karelian Pie in a cafe with munavoi, tomato and cucumber (large size)

Karelian pies from oven (above) with munavoi and roasted pepper topping (medium size)
Profile view of a Karelian pie

Karelian pies are traditionally served at many holidays, when guests visit, as appetizer, as snack with coffee or milk, or can even be made into a small lunch.

Hope you enjoyed the culture lesson for today, see you next time!

T. Kati