Culinary Experience in Latvia

Food tour

In this post, I want to share with you my observations about Latvian cuisine. We have put together a tour in Lithuania and Latvia, which concentrates on local food, the history of it, on the ways of cooking and also on the modern-day chefs and their restaurants.

Do we always think about food?

Food always used to be a very important part of our life. As well as a crucial part of travel. Didn’t you notice that while traveling you get hungry much quicker than at home or work?  Research shows that facing this variety of foods can increase your appetite. To make matters worse, traveling often involves stressful events, such as rushing to catch a flight or just finding yourself in a foreign country. This causes your body to crank out the hormones that make you crave high-calorie foods. I will refer to healthy diet tips in a separate post.

Latvia might be small and too often overlooked as a holiday destination but its cuisine is as diverse as its past. Latvia has a wealth of culinary traditions, because the country is at the crossroads of Europe, and so influences from other nations have come from the East and the West over the course of centuries. Latvia’s dining scene offers plenty of options for people who prefer to avoid fatty foods and even several vegetarian (vegan too!) restaurants. But if like most visitors you’d like to enjoy a real culinary experience in Latvia, get ready to get greasy.

What is Latvian cuisine?

Any Latvian will tell you that they’ve forged a very special relationship with nature – they pick, hunt, forage, smoke, cure, pickle and ferment everything they can get our hands-on. Latvian cuisine is distinctly seasonal, because they have four seasons, and each of them offers specific products and tasty treats. We, therefore, dare to claim that Latvian cuisine is one of the best in Eastern Europe. Cause its main characteristics – variety and abundance – are accentuated more than anywhere else! In Latvia, you eat well, you eat plenty. So, what is a real culinary experience in Latvia?

 

Latvia

Republic of Latvia

Is there anybody who does not eat Potatoes?

Kartupeļi (potatoes) are served with nearly all Latvian food and they’re usually either boiled, fried, boiled and then fried or mashed. Latvians like many Eastern Europeans can’t get enough of them! But it’s difficult to surprise you with potatoes, so we’ll tell you about other Latvian dishes.

Stewed sauerkraut

Hot stewed sauerkraut is a winter staple, especially around Christmas. Unlike German sauerkraut, Latvians have different types of pickles used to ferment the cabbage – the dominating flavor in the pickle can be sweet, salty or sour. When stewing sauerkraut, it’s most important to fry off a base of onions and cubed pork belly that’ll help develop a rich, comforting flavor. Other common additions include caraway seeds and grated carrot. A classic sauerkraut meal includes soft-boiled potatoes and a fried smoked sausage or an oven- or pit-roasted meat – order a roasted pig’s snout if you see one.

Grey peas with speck

An indispensable part of any Christmas or New Year’s feast, this dish has been around for centuries and is one of the fair few recipes that’s not borrowed or adapted from a different nation. Similar to chickpeas, you need to soak and then boil grey peas before stew with fried onions and cubed speck (a type of smoked fatty bacon made from pork belly). It’s a very hearty meal and comfort food during the cold, gloomy winters.

Smoked fish

With the Baltic Sea on our doorstep, several large rivers snaking their way through the country and countless lakes, there’s an abundance of fish in Latvia. Fishermen in villages along the Baltic Sea coast have been hot- or cold-smoking their catch of the day for centuries. The most popular types include alder, birch, and maple. In Latvia fish is popular in both its cooked and pickled varieties. Smoked sprats in oil are a traditional delicacy in Rīga. In Liepāja, for example, cod is most famously in signature dish Liepajas menciņš (smoked cod, potato and onion hotpot).

Riga Black Balsam

It’s not a dish, but you can’t leave Riga without knocking back a shot of Latvia’s national spirit. Black Balsam is a liqueur on vodka made with a range of herbs. Like pepper, ginger, linden flower, raspberry, and bilberry. This legendary spirit was reputedly first brewed to cure Catherine the Great of a stomach illness when she spent time in Riga. Latvians still enjoy its health-giving properties today. It’s both bitter and sweet and something of an acquired taste. For a more palatable introduction to this gutsy spirit, try it mixed in a cocktail.

to be continued

In short, there is a huge variety of dishes to try including soups, salads, main courses, and desserts. It is difficult to tell you about the dishes of Latvian cuisine even in 3 articles. So Jerulita team invites you to join us on a culinary experience in Latvia like no other!

Please, contact us travel@jerulita.lt for your personalized travel itinerary for a true culinary experience in the Baltic states. You will experience an exciting journey of new tastes, high comfort. For sure, you will spoil your taste-buds and create wonderful memories that will make you smile for a long while. Just arrive and… Labu apetīti (bon appetit)!