Latvian food is characteristic of the Baltic area and northern nations in general, with a strong resemblance to Finnish cuisine. Except for black pepper, dill, and grains/seeds like caraway seeds, the meal is rich in butter and fat and lacking in seasonings. If you’re from the Mediterranean, you may find the cuisine bland, unpleasant, and lacking, but if you’re from England or the Midwest, you’ll have no problem adjusting to the majority of the meals.
Latvian cuisine is rooted in peasant culture and heavily reliant on foods that thrive in Latvia’s coastal, temperate environment. The basics include pork products, potatoes, rye or wheat, oats, peas, beets, and cabbage. Meat, particularly pig, is used in almost all major meal recipes. Bacon fat may be used to prepare a variety of vegetarian meals. Because of Latvia’s position on the Baltic Sea’s east coast, fish is frequently consumed: smoked and raw fish are popular. Bread and milk products, which are an essential component of Latvian cuisine, come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The average Latvian consumes three meals each day. Breakfast is typically light and consists of sandwiches or an omelette, along with a beverage, most often milk. Lunch is often eaten between noon and 3 p.m. and is the major meal of the day; as such, it may contain a wide range of dishes, as well as soup as an entrée and dessert. Supper is the final meal of the day, and some people choose to have another substantial meal afterward. It is increasingly normal to eat ready-made or frozen meals.
Type of places
It is essential to remember that the idea and meaning of cafeteria (kafejnca), canteen (dnca), and restaurant (restorns) in Latvia vary from those in other countries. A kafejnca (cafeteria) is more than simply a coffee shop; it typically offers all of the meals that one would expect from a restaurant, with the exception that a kafejnca is a lower-class eatery with no table service and less service in general. A canteen for schools, colleges, industries, and the like is referred to as a dnca (canteen). They are generally extremely inexpensive, although they may have restricted access at times. While a restorns (restaurant) is comparable to a kafejnca in terms of service and culture, the standards of service and culture for a restorns are considerably higher. In certain cases, the distinction between a kafejnca and a restaurant may be blurry.
Local fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms may be bought at open-air markets in Rga and neighboring cities and villages. Freshly harvested wild strawberries and blueberries from nearby woods, as well as large strawberries, apples, and rhubarb pies, are examples. Remember that they are mostly accessible during the summer and fall seasons.
All-time favorites include karbonde (pork schnitzel), karbonde ar kaulu (grilled pork chops), and ckas stilbs (pork knuckle).
Everything is served with kartupei (potatoes), which are typically boiled, fried, boiled and then fried, or mashed. Grii (boiled buckwheat) is sometimes substituted for potatoes; it pairs well with skbais krjums (sour cream). Kposti (cabbage) is also a staple in most Latvian dishes. It may be eaten cold as a salad or heated as a side dish, similar to skbie kposti (sour kraut). Another side dish worth trying is pelkie ziri (grey peas), which are large, brownish-grey round peas cooked and then fried with bacon and served with kefir or sour cream.
In comparison to other Western nations, Latvia has a significantly higher concentration of milk products. Biezpiens (quark), skbais krjums (sour cream), kefrs, and a variety of other cheeses with various flavors are available. The cheapest and, perhaps, tastiest type is a cheese that is comparable to smoked gouda but is softer. Most supermarket shops provide a variety of flavors to choose from. The biezpiena sieri, a sweet quark, is a Latvian speciality (the most prominent producers of the snack are Krumsand Baltais).
Ju siers (caraway cheese), shown to the right, is a traditional Latvian cheese that is usually offered during the festival of Ji, or midsummer.
Vegetables, broth, or milk are frequently used in soups. Latvians often eat frikadeu zupa (meatball soup), noodle soup, ziru zupa (pea soup), bieu zupa (beetroot soup), sorrel soup, and nettle soup. A unique cool beetroot soup (aukst bieu zupa) may be cooked in a variety of ways and is perfect for a hot summer day.
Maizes zupa (literally “bread soup”), a sweet soup prepared from rye bread and fruits, is the most traditional and unique Latvian cuisine. In addition, the previously stated biezpiena sieri is very sweet and delicious. Zefrs is a soft marshmallow-like confection. Rabarberu pirgs (rhubarb cake) is a delicacy that should not be missed.
Laima and Skrveru Saldumi are two well-known local sweets producers that provide a wide range of sweets, including chocolate bars of different types, candies, marmalades, fruits in chocolate, biscuits, and more. It’s available with or without glazing, and in a variety of flavors. A caramel sweet called gotia (which means “small cow”) is worth trying. Some of the sweets sold by these two businesses come in attractive gift packaging, which may be useful for bringing mementos home. The Riga chocolate manufacturer Emihls Gustavs Chocolate is more special and expensive. They have stores in Riga’s major shopping malls and create chocolate sculptures in various forms.
Dark (rye) bread from Latvia is dense and flavorful, and it pairs well with substantial Latvian dishes like pea soup, potatoes, and schnitzels. It is said to be more nutritious than white bread. Rupjmaize is a rye-based black bread that is a national favorite and should be tasted. Saldskb maize is a bread prepared from a rye and wheat combination.
Prdzii are bacon and onion-stuffed buns. Latvian food in its purest form. Klieris is a delicious pretzel-shaped bread eaten as a treat on special occasions like naming day.
Try these meals if you want to try something really traditional:
- potatoes boiled in quark
- kissels made with oats and peas
- grey peas with pork fat seasoned (fatback)
- siļķu pudiņš (casserole made from herring and boiled potatoes)
- sklandrausis (or sklandu rausis) is a classic Livonian sweet pie composed of rye dough and filled with potato and carrot paste and seasoned with caraway seeds.
- asins pankūkas (pancakes made from blood)
- maizes zupa (sweet bread soup)
- soups that are served cold