03/04/2017

Food around the world: Latvian cuisine

It's a fact known all over the world: Italian people are extremely picky when it comes to food. Being used to our grandmothers' amazing cooking abilities since we're born, we look at every foreign dish suspiciously - let alone if it's something that pretends to be Italian food, like the notorious Meatball Pasta. And coffee? Don't even think about Starbucks' one - it's fake.
So, what's going to happen when an Italian girl decides to try all the kinds of foreign food that Riga, the Latvian capital, has to offer? Possibly, something explosive.
Food around the world
In honour of the country that's hosting me for this semester, I decided to start with some typical Latvian dishes! But before I start, I need to say that I didn't try all the following dishes in the same place - even though Lido's offer is so big I may have found everything there -, they all come from different restaurants, cafés and pubs spread around the city.
And I personally liked almost everything. Latvian cuisine rules!

Garlic bread

Beer platter
Dish name: Beer Platter
Eaten at: Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs
This has been my favourite dish ever since I tried it two months ago, and it's still at the top. It's not even a proper main course (it comes under "beer snacks"), but it's definitely enough to fill you in! The Beer Platter comes with local cheese, smoked meat and vegetables, but the stars of it all are the rye bread, dark and savoury and crunchy, and the amazing garlic sauce - so good I had people who hated garlic finishing it all and asking for more. Best. Combination. Ever. And if after a while it gets too much you can eat some carrots or cucumber and then start again. But why am I saying it? It's never enough! Just remember to take mint chewing gum for the aftermath...

Potato Pancakes

Latvian potato pancakes
Dish name: Kartupeļu pankūkas
Eaten at: Lido
Latvians are fond of this simple food, also common in Western Europe. Here it is served with sour cream or lingonberry jam, and I personally prefer the first. Sour cream is not a common ingredient in Italy, so I tried it the first time with these pancakes, and I think they make a nice couple. The pancakes are quite tasty but also fat (you can feel they've been fried), and the sour cream takes away the otherwise excessive oily feeling on your tongue (does it only happen to me? I always get this sensation after eating avocados, for example). It's nothing particularly elaborate, but good nonetheless!

Bacon Rolls

Pīrāgi
Dish name: Pīrāgi
Eaten at: home! I bought them at a local supermarket
This is literally the most common food in Latvia, You find this little roll, filled with bacon and onions, everywhere - in restaurants, at the local market, in supermerkets and bakeries. They are so popular they are one of the main pastries eaten during winter and summer solstices, Latvia's most popular festivities. There's not really much to say: they so good I could eat them all day long, which is the reason why I only bought them twice. Perfect snacks for a party, or for a lunch on the go (you'll also find them in bigger sizes for that purpose)!

Vegetable Tarts

Sklandrausis
Dish name: Sklandrausis
Eaten at: Kalnciems District Fair
You need to know that I love sweet potatoes. So this is heaven for me! This pastry, one of the oldest in Latvia (it's said to have made its first appearance in Kurzeme, Western Latvia, in 16th-17th century), it's another local favourite. The traditional recipe uses carrots, potatoes, sour cream and rye bread; however, a lot of variations exist, especially sweeter and to be eaten with tea. 

Dumplings

Pelmeni
Dish name: Pelmeni
Eaten at: Lido
These meat-filled dumplings are originally from Russia, and I have to say they resemble Italian "tortellini" a lot. But if tortellini have a thicker dough and are only eaten with broth, pelmeni are as thin as it's humanly achievable, and so far I've tried them three ways: with broth, with sour cream and fried. The second option seems so far the most popular one; it's not bad, but doesn't have much flavour to my taste. With broth, the resemblance with tortellini it's even stronger, and I love it - tortellini were my childhood favourite dishes, and I haven't eaten them in a long while. Fried ones I don't recommend at all, because to me the frying process just makes them taste like little rocks, taking away the meat's flavour completely. Broth for life!


This is what I got so far! But Latvian cuisine is also full of soups, peas and cakes, three categories I still haven't had the time to face. I will keep this post updated with all the new specialties that I'll try from now on - hoping they are as delicious as these... 
And I hope I inspired you enough to give Latvian cuisine a try! It deserves it, totally.

Sadly, my phone camera doesn't get along well with restaurants - meaning every picture is a disaster. Credits go to (following post order) Tripadvisor.co.uk, Pinterest.com, Wanderlustandlipstick.com, Latvianeats.com and Thingsimadetoday.com

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