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?

Finns are justifiably proud of their history in gender equality. Few countries around the world have voted in female presidents, prime ministers, or cabinet ministers in the numbers that Finland has. France has never had a female president, and neither have the US, Italy, or Spain.

But in the business sector the record is dismal. Women make up a tiny minority of directorships, and are almost exclusively in under-valued fields like HR. A list of Finnish companies in which women lead production, sales or marketing would fit on the head of a pin.

Many companies genuinely care about greenhouse gases and slavery, but it is hypocritical for any company to claim to do so without looking at how their own staff are treated.

Never in the history of capitalism have companies cared so much or so vocally about social issues as they do today. Almost every major corporation promotes its vision of environmental awareness; reducing their carbon footprint, recycling raw materials and building a more sustainable business model. Major brands promote equal opportunity employment, support everything from local sports to new children’s’ hospitals, and generally do a fine job of appearing to care.

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.