Latvian cuisine has been influenced by neighboring countries in the Baltic region. Common ingredients in Latvian recipes are found locally, such as potatoes, wheat, barley, cabbage, onions, eggs and pork. Latvian food is generally quite fatty, and uses few spices.
Contemporary Latvians usually eat three meals a day. Breakfast is normally light and usually consists of sandwiches or an omelette, with a drink, often milk. Lunch is eaten from noon to 3 p.m. and tends to be the main meal of the day; as such it can include a variety of foods, and sometimes also soup as an entrée and a dessert. Supper is the last meal of the day, with some choosing to eat another large meal. Consumption of ready-made or frozen meals is now common.
Common foods and dishes
Latvian cuisine is typical of the Baltic region and, in general, of northern countries, being especially similar to Finnish. The food is high on butter and fat while staying low on spices except for black pepper, dill or grains/seeds, such as caraway seeds. If you are from the Mediterranean, you might find the food rather bland, tasteless and lacking, but if you come from England or the Midwestern U.S., you will probably not have any trouble getting used to most of the dishes.
The Latvian cuisine originated from the peasant culture and is strongly based on crops that grow in Latvian maritime, temperate climate. Rye or wheat, oats, peas, beets, cabbage, pork products and potatoes are the staples. Meat features in most main meal dishes. But fish also is commonly consumed due to Latvia's location on the east coast of the Baltic Sea: smoked and raw fish are quite common. The Latvian cuisine offers plenty of varieties of bread and milk products, which are an important part of the Latvian cuisine.
Latvia is much richer in milk products than other Western countries. Biezpiens (which is quark), skābais krējums (sour cream), kefīrs and a lot of varieties cheeses with different flavours. A cheese similar to smoked gouda, but softer, is the cheapest and, arguably, tastiest variety. There are various tastes available for purchase in most grocery stores. A Latvian specialty is the biezpiena sieriņš which is a quark with a sweet taste (most popular manufacturers of the snack are Kārums and Baltais).
A traditional Latvian cheese that is in the picture to the right, is Jāņu siers (caraway cheese); this is traditionally served during the celebration of Jāņi or midsummer.
Soups are commonly made with vegetables and broth or milk. Noodle soup, beet soup, sorrel soup and nettle soup are also consumed by Latvians. The beetroot soup (Latvian: biešu zupa) is another dish that you are suggested to try. There is a special cold beetroot soup (Latvian: aukstā biešu zupa) that can be prepared in various ways and is made to suit a warm Summer day.
The most traditional and exotic Latvian dish is maizes zupa (literally "bread soup"), which is the sweet soup made from rye bread and fruits. Also, the already mentioned biezpiena sieriņš is quite sweet and tasty. Zefīrs is a soft marshmallow-ish type of sweet. Rhubarb cake is worth trying.
Two main local sweets manufacturers Laima and Skrīveru Saldumi are well known and they offer a variety of sweets ranging from chocolate bars of various kinds, to candies, to marmalades, fruits in chocolate, biscuits and more. It comes with glazing and without, in various tastes. A caramel sweet named gotiņa (translated as little cow) is worth a try. These two companies sell some of their sweets in nice gift packages, which may be handy to bring souvenirs home.
If you want to try some really traditional dishes, then try these:
- boiled potatoes with quark
- oat and pea kissels
- grey peas with salted pork fat (fatback)
- siļķu pudiņš (casserole made from herring and boiled potatoes)
- sklandrausis (or sklandu rausis) is traditional dish in Latvian cuisine which has a Livonian origin; it's a sweet pie, made of rye dough and filled with potato and carrot paste and seasoned with a caraway
- asins pankūkas (pancakes made from blood)
- maizes zupa (sweet bread soup)
- cold soups
For vegetarians and vegans
Some other noteworthy foods:
- Kissel (Ķīselis). Thickened, stewed fruits (usually cherry or rhubarb). Served for dessert.
- Buckwheat (Griķi). Eaten as the main course.
- Sauerkraut (Skābēti kāposti).
- Smoked cheese (Kūpināts siers). Goes very well with wine.
- Eel (Zutis).
- Cutlet (Kotlete).
- Chanterelle sauce (Gaileņu mērce). A sauce from the edible chanterelles in sour cream. Usually served with potatoes.
- Herring with quark (Siļķe ar biezpienu). The quark (cottage cheese) is served on the side.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Category:Cuisine of Latvia.|
- Latvian cuisine by Latvian Institute
- Latvian Cuisine (en)
- Latvian Cooking, recipes for pork aspic and pīrāgi (speķa rauši)
- Latvian food
- Photo of Kliņģers