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Twizzlers enthusiasts need not apply

Ilkka Siren
October 22, 2018

While the history of licorice in Finland only goes back only a century or so, the country has become a haven for licorice lovers. When Finns talk about licorice, they aren't referring to the kinder, gentler American kind. Strawberry Twizzlers fans would not recognize Finnsh licorice. The licorice in Finland is pungant and medicinal, particularly the salty, robust version called “salmiakki.” It's so popular in Finland that there is even a festival dedicated entirely to it. This year, it'll take place on October 27 and 28 in Helsinki, with almost 40 different licorice-related exhibitors.

The Licorice & Salmiakki Festival was founded in Stockholm, Sweden, by licorice connoisseur Tuija Räsänen. “I organized a small licorice event in my shop Choklad & Lakrits, and it just grew from there,” Räsänen says. The first festival took place in 2009, and Räsänen quickly realized that there was a demand for such an event in Finland as well. “We had people from Finland saying we should organize something in Helsinki, so we did,” she says. Finland's first Licorice & Salmiakki Festival took place in Helsinki in 2014 and has since grown exponentially. In 2017, the festival had 9,000 visitors.

This year, they're expecting even more guests. The two-day festival will host a wide range of events for visiting licorice enthusiasts. There will be a licorice cake-decoration competition where a group of semifinalists will present their creations and a candy factory section where visitors can learn about the process of manufacturing licorice. Alternatively, you can learn how to make your licorice at home and how to add different flavors, like raspberry, to licorice. There is even a place where you can create your very own licorice art using different kinds of candy. The best three pieces will win prizes (spoiler alert, the prize is more licorice).

During the festival, one restaurant will even hold a brunch that's totally dedicated to licorice, complete with croissants with licorice-flavored butter, salads with licorice-root dressing, black salsify soup and cashews roasted with licorice, and pan-fried pike-perch with fennel and licorice mayonnaise or chicken marinated with five-spice and licorice. Despite the "heavy users only" approach to licorice, the festival is an excellent example of the peculiar passion Finns have for the candy. So, licorice heads—there's still time to plan a last-minute trip to Finland.

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