The indoor market hall Kauppahalli is the throbbing heart of Tampere’s gastronomy. I am willing to go as far as calling this the best market hall in the world. It would not be the first time I got decapitated in the social media for something I’ve said. And maybe not everything is supposed to take so literally. Sure, I remember feeling as strongly about the amazing La Boqueria market hall in Barcelona, and about a lot of places during my other culinary pilgrimages ranging from Rovaniemi to Marracesh. So the title “world’s best” can be given to several different places, without taking anything away from the other destinations. It’s about that certain feeling that you get, when you know you’ve entered somewhere unique and meaningful.
I come here both for work and during my free time, several times a week, yet on every visit I get some sort of a sentimental feeling. The atmosphere in this market hall is something truly unique. You can actually see the over 100 years of the market hall’s history on the walls and the ceiling structures. Many of the shops and vendors with their old and dignified local brands represent the old-school Tampere, as do most of the customers. It all reminds me of my childhood, when we used to come here with my grandma to buy some buns, and when grandpa brought me here to marvel at live crayfish.
Once inside the market hall, people are not as hasty and tense as in they get in the huge supermarkets. A lady buying her 75 grams of sausage and the men talking about the current issues in strong local dialect bring a breath of something we thought was long gone into this hectic time we live in now. And that’s exactly what I think we need, some time to spend without being in a hurry, to really meet people. There should always be time to say hello and chat for a bit.
When you enter the front doors, you can definitely feel the present time as well. One of the newest layer of trendy restaurants, enticing more and more younger customers to the market hall, is Ohana Grille, which offers the best burgers in town as well as other delicious street food. Today, the lunch hour seems to be busy as usual in there, as well as in the neighbouring Umami, the most sympathetic and tasty sushi restaurant in Tampere.
The meat vendor from the opposite side greets me and we exchange the most important news. Eija from Juustosoppi cheese shop next door even gives me a hug over the counter. I take off my scarf and open the jacket. This will probably take a while. I can’t escape the stories nor the tastings, and I wouldn’t really want to! I remember admiring many a time how well Eija and the staff know their regular customers’ tastes in cheese. Today we’re tasting some cheeses from the local, small cheese factories, and talk about the art of maturing blue cheese. I take with me just optimally ripe blue cheese, long-matured organic pecorino from Italy, as well as some fresh eggs and delicious butter from a near-by farm.
I find myself thinking – yet again – how to make the rest of the Tampere dwellers to realize that they can get nearly everything ever needed for daily cooking from the market hall. For too many, coming to shop in the hall is a special occasion that only takes place once or twice a year. As for myself, shopping here is a way of treating myself in the middle of the every-day rush, and of course a way to make sure I offer the best possible food for myself and for my customers. Knowing where your food comes from, and of course supporting the local producers, are the main reasons to shop here.
I’m still tempted by Ohana’s burger, but today I’m staying strong. I do have to pass by the corridor though, since I need to pick up a bun from Ohana’s bakery. The breads here are by far some of the best in town, but my personal downfall is, more often than not, their lovely buns. The combination of lemony frosting, raisins and perfect dough is to die for, and to top it all off, it’s absolutely huge! I often call it a bun for two, even though when it comes down to it, I usually end up being selfishly greedy.
Laatuliha meat shop has served me professionally since the 90’s, when the father of the current owner was still running the stall. With the weekend approaching, the meat counter looks especially tempting. There’s nothing like this elsewhere in this city. Traditional cuttings, stew and soup meats with bones, internal organs, cured and smoked, steaks and sausages -as well as the trendy flank steaks and pork cheeks that you see in TV’s cooking shows are available. Since we are in the market hall, the service is in a class of its own!
Meats in my bag I steer myself towards the fish counter, where already the third generation of the family Nygrén is busy at work. The fish offerings are ready for the weekend too. Fresh, exotic sea food from around the world are posing happily with the Finnish lake fish. I get some of Nygrén’s own cold smoked salmon to take to my mom, as well as some legendary mustard herring. For myself, a couple of sachets of blue mussels for the evening.
For my snack while cooking, I head to 4 Vuodenaikaa (four seasons) deli opposite to get a couple of quiches. I can’t decide between pork and vegetable-cheese filling, so I take both. This time around I don’t need sausage but if I did, there’s no question about where I would get that too – this counter is the place for any sausage enthusiast. The restaurant side of 4 Vuodenaikaa seems quite full once again, as the chef Juho zooms by and says hello and something about being busy – but that’s only positive! The lunch restaurant has already found its way to many hearts in Tampere with their classic French cuisine, and the reputation seems to be spreading outside the city, too. The good reputation is well earned here!
Next stop is Vallius vegetable stall. Usually I first check the organic section’s offerings, as I do today as well. Fresh, dirt-covered root veggies find their way to my paper bag, as do a couple of onions and a garlic. From the other side of the isle, I pick some temptingly beautiful red peppers and a nice bush of parsley.
I’m feeling a bit peckish already, and luckily the neighbouring stall Herkkuveräjä offers first aid. A couple of steamed wiener sausages satisfy my hunger for a bit while we discuss matters of food with Samu. The love for the high-quality produce of the small farms and the enthusiasm for his work really shine through and rub on me as well, as I listen to the vendor’s stories. Herkkuveräjä counter is where you’ll find organic meat and meat produce from the small, local farms.
There’s still time for a quick espresso at Linkosuo café before I decide to check my watch. My parking time has expired a while back already. I laugh out loud a little. This is definitely not the first time that my sense of time gets blurry in here, and so, once again, the reality slaps me on the way out, in the form of a parking ticket.
Photos: Laura Vanzo