9 Latvian Foods You Must Try to Eat Like a Local

9 Latvian Foods You Must Try to Eat Like a Local
To understand Latvian culture and traditions better, you must get to know the cuisine with all the unique dishes, including kvass, those with mushrooms, and dark rye bread. At first some of the dishes might seem odd, but if you are open to an unforgettable gastronomic journey in Latvia, you’ll want to take all the food back to your home.

Rye bread

Rye bread is extremely popular in Latvia and there are plenty of different types, including dark or sweet sourdough rye bread. Latvians love to accompany almost every dish with rye bread. It is also common to eat it with butter and cheese or ham for breakfast.

rye bread © Marco Verch/ Flickr

Beetroot soup

Beetroot soup is a unique Latvian dish, which is also very popular in Lithuania. At first, it might taste and look a little odd because let’s be honest; no one expects a soup to be purple. However, things can get even crazier when you try cold beetroot soup, prepared using kefir, beetroots, cucumbers, eggs, and herbs.

beetroot soup © greatlettuce / Flickr

Speck

Speck is a type of smoked bacon made from pork belly. It is extremely fatty food and became popular in Latvia many centuries ago when villagers had to consume a lot of energy to be able to work hard in the fields. One of the most traditional dishes made with speck is pelēkie zirņi ar speķi. It is a simple dish made from many different types of peas, mixed with fried onions and speck.

Speck © Gerwin Sturm / Flickr

Bread soup

If cold beetroot soup is not strange enough for you, you must try bread soup, which is considered to be a dessert in Latvia. This soup is made from rye bread mixed with sugar, dry fruits, and whipped cream. Most of the Latvians love the taste of this soup as it reminds them of childhood and brings back good memories.

Kvass

Kvass is a unique drink, only popular in Eastern Europe, made from rye bread. Kvass is not considered to be an alcoholic drink, but it contains up to 1.2% alcohol in it. Homemade kvass has similar taste to beer, but it is a lot sweeter.

Kvass © Konstantin Ryabitsev / Flickr

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a big part of Latvian cuisine and during the autumn, people rush to the forests to pick fresh mushrooms for the upcoming year. There are plenty of traditional Latvian dishes made from mushrooms, but the most delicious must be fried boletus with salt, rye bread, and herb-flavored butter.

mushroom picking © Inga Vitola / Flickr

Smoked fish

Latvia has a lot of access to the Baltic Sea, so it is not a big surprise that fish takes up a big part of the Latvian cuisine. The most traditional fishes are probably cod, pike, and eel, but there are plenty more. Liepajas menciņš is a signature dish of Liepaja, which is made from smoked cod, potatoes, and onions. You must definitely try it to fully understand the magic of Latvian food.

smoked fish © Liga Eglite / Flickr

Potato pancakes

Potatoes, in general, are extremely important for the Latvian cuisine as it is one of the vegetables that can easily grow in the local fields. Even though most of the people could hardly imagine pancakes made from potatoes, Latvians could not imagine their lives without this dish. You must try potato pancakes in one of the local restaurants, but make sure that it comes with sour cream and speck sauce.

potato pancakes © Olga/ Олька / Flickr

Dill

There is something about dill in the Baltic states that makes it the most popular and dominant herb of all. You’ll probably find some dill in every dish of the Latvian cuisine, including smoked fish, potato pancakes, or fried mushrooms.

Daugavpils is Latvia‘s second largest city set on the banks of the Daugava River, an historical center brimming with winding lanes and Soviet-style architecture, and a quintessential Eastern European town full of bustling locals, dramatic scenery and infectious energy. Ever fancied trying Latvian cuisine? Well now’s your chance, with Daugavpils offering visitors a fine selection of native fare, including scrumptious smoked fish, steamed vegetables and many meat-based dishes. So without further ado, here’s our definitive guide to the top 10 restaurants in Daugavpils, Latvia.
Outdoor architecture of Daugavpils I © miles from home/Flickr

Arabika

Cafe, European
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Arabika is a popular post-soviet style cafe reminiscent of the bygone Latvian era of stark colors and simple furnishings. Locally sourced produce is used here to create no-fuss cuisine, a top pick being the fragrant mushroom soup, the ingredients for which are actually grown in the on-site garden. A number of international dishes are also available here, including fresh Greek salads and spicy Indian curries.
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Lidadis Park

Restaurant, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, Street Food, $$$
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Walking into Lidadis Parkis like stepping into a hunting lodge rather than a restaurant, with preserved game and assorted memorabilia adorning the walls, and a large and elegant chandelier making for a spectacular centerpiece. Customers here can choose from an array of meat stews, pizzas and lighter bites, and the venue is open for both lunch and dinner daily. Although at the higher end of the price scale in Daugavpils, the flawless service and exquisite presentation of the dishes here make it worth every penny.
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Gliemezis

Cafe, European
The Latvian word for “snail,” Gliemezis is exactly what one pictures a hip Russian cafe in the nineties to be like. Tattered sofas and amateur artwork combine to create a trendy, college dorm feel here, with students frequenting the venue and often seen studying with a coffee in hand. A top spot to relax in town, enjoy life at a snail’s pace here and kick back with a colorful cocktail or fruity beverage, with snacks available including meat sandwiches and homemade fries. Don’t miss Friday nights here when the place is packed wall to wall.
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Gubernators

Gubernators is a quaint underground establishment offering visitors an authentic taste of Latvia, with traditional wooden furnishings, Latvian or Russian menus and tasty cuisine being served which centers around sumptuous seafood. Thanks to Latvia’s close proximity to the Baltic Sea the dishes served here often include fish, and Gubernators is the spot in which to have your first mouthwatering sample; try the fish soup or the salmon salad, and perhaps pair these with side dishes of roast potatoes or perfectly steamed vegetables. The multicultural aspect of Daugavpils is emanated charmingly here, with the rustic interior combining an eclectic mix of Russian, Jewish, Polish and German styles.

Address and Telephone: Gubernators, Lacplesa iela 10, Daugavpils, Latvia +371 06 542 2455

Gubernators I Courtesy of Gubernators

Šokoladņa

Šokoladņa is a small and cozy venue offering guests an intimate dining experience, with the Soviet-era starkness of the furnishings completely contrasting with the vibrant and colorful, delicious cakes and desserts on offer. A top spot to satisfy a sweet craving in Daugavpils, don’t miss the indulgent and gooey chocolate cake that is arguably the best in town. And for a refreshing beverage after a meal, customers are encouraged to sample the black tea or coffee, expertly brewed and full of flavor.

Pasaules Brinumi

During the icy Latvian winters there’s no better place to be than Pasaules Brinumi, an establishment offering customers a picturesque log fire, a vivacious atmosphere and fantastic food. One of the best starters on the menu here is the round fried potato balls served with a garlic dip, a dish which tastes similar to the Polish pierogis. Follow this up with the chicken breast with crushed walnuts. The twists on traditional dishes here make this one of the most innovative restaurants in Daugavpils, and with such a friendly and homely atmosphere, you’ll find yourself quickly becoming a regular customer, especially when you realize that beer, salad and rice are all included with every meal.

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