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There are things that can be done cheaply in Helsinki (good schooling, public transport) and there are things that cannot be done cheaply (umm, eating… and everything else). But since we must eat pretty much daily, and that it’s nice to dine out at least occasionally, here is a roundup of Helsinki’s 5 best budget restaurants, in alphabetical order. Let’s call the definition of a budget restaurant one that serves food to your table, provides chairs and metal cutlery, and offers mains of around 10-15 euros.

The weird and wonderful tastes of your local Asian grocery store.

Hello and welcome to a brave new world of… dried spices. Much maligned and far from being inferior to fresh herbs, dried spices have been used for centuries to preserve foods, add flavour to otherwise blah dishes and to disguise the tell-tale flavour of food that has ahem, somewhat passed its use-by date. Many spices might be familiar to the Finnish kitchen but what about Asian spices? Let’s take a look shall we?

Jamaican restaurant helps to keep things relaxed and tasty in Helsinki.

PHOTOGRAHPHER Valérie and I find our way to Jamaican Mamas on a brilliant spring afternoon. The sun is blazing down and highlights all the Rastafarian colours of the little café that founder and proprietor Mama Hazel has established on Hameentie. Occupying the corner of an Asian store, the café/restaurant has just enough tables and comfy chairs to give it a spacious ambience but still keep the cosy vibes going.

The weird and wonderful tastes of your local Asian grocery store.

Entering an Asian grocery store can be a nerve wracking experience. The shelves pack the walls, and more often than not block the windows, casting a gloom not aided by the fluorescent lighting that paints everything grey. Packaged food with garish text and faintly alarming text do not beguile the buyer – ‘Fast express mouse tail noodle!’ says one, and the freezer section looks even more distressing. But fear not, gentle reader, for here is 6D’s complete survival guide to Asian / Afro-Caribbean / Indian / African grocery shopping. Prepare to have your taste buds blown.

Authentic Chinese tea in downtown Helsinki.

Tucked away in a quiet corner of Aikatalo on Mikonkatu is the quiet and unpretentious Natural Flavor Tea House. The ever smiling and serene Mr. Wong bids myself and 6D photographer Kai welcome to Helsinki’s first and only Chinese tea house and invites us to take our places at a low table carved out of wood. “Would you like to try some special Red Tea – China Golden Monkey?” It seems like a rhetorical question. Of course! As we watch Mr. Wong set out the tiny teapot and almost thimble sized tea cups he tells us his story.