Latvian cuisine

30 Jun 2016

If you’re looking for something light and healthy to eat, then you’ve come to the wrong place.

In truth, Riga’s dining scene offers plenty of options for people who prefer to avoid fatty foods and even several vegetarian and even vegan restaurants, but if like most visitors you’d like to chow down on some local cuisine then pop your heart medication, pull out your pocket defibrillator and get ready to get greasy.

Where to begin? That’s easy. A Latvian meal is seldom complete without pork. Even if you order a dish without the national meat, there’s a good chance that the chef has snuck it into your food somehow, usually by cooking other food, including vegetables, in bacon fat. Karbonāde ar kaulu (grilled pork chops), karbonāde (pork schnitzel) and cūkas stilbs (pork knuckle) are all favourites, but for more exotic pig dishes keep an eye out for cūkas ausis (pig’s ears), grūdenis (pig’s head stew) and cūkas kājas (pig’s feet).

Kartupeļi (potatoes) are served with nearly all Latvian food and they’re usually either boiled, fried, boiled and then fried or mashed.
Sometimes, traditional restaurants will also offer griķi (boiled buckwheat) instead of potatoes. If in doubt, stick with the potatoes.

Kāposti (cabbage) also plays a major role in most Latvian meals. Sometimes it’s served cold as a salad or hot as a side dish like skābie kāposti (sauerkraut). We, however, prefer šķovētie or štovētie kāposti, which is like sauerkraut but sweeter and darker in colour as it's stewed longer with sugar.

Pelēkie zirņi (grey peas) is another side dish worth trying. Big, grey round peas are boiled and then fried with bacon and usually served with kefīrs (kefir) or skābais krējums (sour cream).

All kinds of pickled items are also on offer at most Latvian establishments including beets, mushrooms and, of course, cucumbers. If you see the word marinēts on a menu it means that something has been marinated in vinegar.


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C'mon, you're only speaking about cheap cafes and traditional food which is indeed for hardworking people and cold climate. How about (lean) beef with dark chocolate ganache, fish marinated in sake, actually looots of fish, sweet and savoury treats with buckthorn, birch juice, rye bread truffles, and lots of other examples from Latvian modern / fusion cuisine, many of these organic, eco-, fit for different diets? Start with a business lunch in Neiburgs!!
Mike Wood

Just read that Latvia has been awarded the most beautiful country by a UK paper, so I thought I'd have a look at the second most important issue - the food. Frankly it sounds horrific. boiled Cabbage, grey peas and kilo's of pork - I don't see me visiting Latvia without being paid to.
All true!!!! Brilliant article. I printed it out for friend. He goes to Latvia in June.
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