LivingTravel8 Latvian Dishes You Must Try In Riga

8 Latvian Dishes You Must Try In Riga

At the crossroads between Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, the Baltic state of Latvia has an intriguing food scene that is influenced by neighboring countries, but shaped by strong traditions and native ingredients. Expect hearty meatballs and smoked herring to sit alongside borscht dishes on menus across Riga, but you’ll also find a growing number of contemporary restaurants offering exciting meals from top chefs. And the city is home to the largest food market in Europe, housed in five former Zeppelin hangars. Since Latvian cuisine is one of the main reasons to visit the city in general, these are the best dishes that you cannot leave Riga without digging.

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Pickles and Sauerkraut

In Riga’s epic Central Market, you’ll find a Zeppelin hangar filled with stalls selling fruits and vegetables and a large selection of pickles. Street vendors let you help yourself to loads of crunchy sauerkraut and you’ll find all kinds of pickles, including carrots, tomatoes, garlic, mushrooms, green beans, cauliflower, and of course, cucumbers with a variety of herbs and spices. Sauerkraut is a Latvian staple and comes in side dishes, meatballs, and soups.

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Rye bread pudding

A popular way to finish a meal in Latvia is to eat zupa de maiz (rye bread pudding), a thick dessert made from sweetened rye bread, apples, cinnamon, raisins, plums, blueberries, and whipped cream. Dark rye bread is dried in the oven before boiling, which gives the pudding a thick, comforting texture.


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Gray peas

This healthy and hearty national dish is usually served at Christmas, as Latvians believe that eating peas brings luck and money, but you will see Gray Peas on menus all over Riga. It is served as a side dish or a snack and is made from dried peas (similar to chickpeas) cooked with fried onions and fatty smoked bacon. Dive into a bowl at one of the city’s Lido restaurants, a traditional Latvian chain known for its cheap and healthy family food.

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Dark rye bread

The average Latvian is said to consume around 50kg of rye bread per year and tradition dictates that if the bread is accidentally dropped, it should be picked up immediately and kissed. Rupjmaize (dark rye bread) is a dense bread that is served as an accompaniment to most meals along with herb-flavored butter. Fried rye bread sticks are often served as a snack to enjoy with a garlic dip.

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Black balm

While this is not a dish, you cannot leave Riga without taking a look at the national spirit of Latvia. To aid digestion, Black Balsam is a vodka-based liqueur made with a variety of herbs including pepper, ginger, linden blossom, raspberry, and blueberry. This legendary spirit was said to have been first created to cure Catherine the Great of a stomach ailment when she spent time in Riga and Latvians still enjoy its healthy properties today. It is both bitter and sweet and has an acquired taste, and the exact recipe remains a closely guarded secret. For a more flavorful introduction to this brave spirit, try it mixed in a cocktail at Balzam bars.

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This rich potato salad is made up of several layers of meat and / or fish (typically herring), hard-boiled eggs, and vegetables, all along with mayonnaise and sour cream. It is very similar to a traditional Russian Olivier salad (created in the mid-19th century by the chef of the famous Hermitage restaurant in Moscow), but you will find different variations served throughout the city. You may also see ingredients like chopped apple, beets, spring onion, and dill.

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Pelmeni meatballs

Although they may not have originated in Latvia, pelmeni are eaten all over Riga and are definitely worth trying. A cross between Polish pierogi and Italian tortellini, these little meatballs are made with unleavened dough and filled with minced meat, vegetables, or cheese. They can be served in a broth or fried and always come with a dollop of sour cream. Head to Pelmenu Sturitis, a small family-run stall in the Central Market to buy a plate of made-to-order meatballs for around 3 euros. The Pelmeni XL restaurant chain serves pelmeni until 4 a.m. M. Every Friday and Saturday for late night snacks.

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Pork is very present on Latvian menus and karbonade is one of the most popular dishes in the country. Like a schnitzel, the pork is mashed and then fried in breadcrumbs. It’s usually served with a bunch of creamy mushrooms on top and some dill-seasoned potatoes on the side.

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