So you have arrived at this small Baltic country Lithuania and now you are wondering:
What authentic Lithuanian cuisine tastes like?
Can I take some of it home as a souvenir?
As we discovered in my previous post, lots of Lithuanians will present you with a variety of hearty potato dishes as authentic Lithuanian cuisine.
However, historians strongly disagree with this choice of menu.
So I listened to these learned men and women, did a bit of research of my own and here’s what I came up with:
11 authentic Lithuanian cuisine items you can easily buy in any supermarket.
Juoda duona – brown rye bread.
People in the region have been making this bread for thousands of years, traditionally simply from rye flour and water, nothing else.
Some foreign visitors, especially those coming from countries where rye is not a popular grain, find this bread slightly on a sour side. Others though, appreciate its quality and even take it home as a delicatessen.
Lithuanians love this bread and eat it with almost every meal.
Get your loaf of rye bread in any supermarket.
OMG, it turns out, you can also buy Lithuanian Rye Bread on Amazon! See HERE
2. Baltas sūris – white cottage cheese.
This cheese is usually formed in a sort of triangular shape and is often eaten with honey.
I still remember my granny making it the traditional way, squeezing it in a special wooden apparatus for a couple of days.
Every supermarket in Lithuania sells a few varieties of this cheese, ranging from savory to sweet.
3. Fermented cheese.
It seems Lithuanians started fermenting cheese around the 16th century in the region of Samogitia.
Across Samogitian borders, this cheese was known as Lithuanian cheese.
Today in Lithuania you’ll find a huge variety of Lithuanian fermented cheeses to choose from.
A couple of brands that are worth exploring and even bringing home as souvenirs are:
Hard cheese DŽIUGAS – you’ll find it everywhere, they even have specialized shops and cafes where along with their cheese they sell all sorts of products made with it, even cakes and ice cream!
Another cheese worth trying is semi-hard cheese ‘Liliputas’. In 2015 this cheese was included in EU Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication product lists.
4. Lašiniai (‘salo’ in Ukranian and Russian), salted and cured slabs of pork fatback.
The locals have been eating Lašiniai for many hundreds of years.
We eat lašiniai either raw or add it as a condiment to various traditional dishes to enhance the texture and flavor.
You can get a slab of lašiniai in any supermarket or meat shop.
…and the best part is – it turns out dietitians call slabs of pork fat diet food… go figure!
Guess what – you can get lašiniai on Amazon too – can’t quite believe it! See HERE
5. Skilandis ( a kind of Lithuanian sausage).
Skilandis was first mentioned in the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania palace inventory books in the 16th century.
Traditionally people used to make it using pig’s stomach or bladder and stuffing it with a variety of meats.
As with other products, every supermarket, butcher’s, market or grocery’s shop sells skilandis in the sausage section.
6. Žemaitiškas kastinys (Samogitian sour cream butter).
Kastinys is an ancient dish coming from Samogitian region in Lithuania.
Kastinys is a savory spread made from cream with consistency reminding that of butter.
Home cooks, as well as chefs, make it with garlic, pepper and various herbs and serve with a variety of hot dishes, such as potato, dumplings, pasta or use it as a spread in sandwiches.
Today you’ll find kastinys in butter or cream section of any supermarket.
7. Blynai (pancakes).
While most likely, you will not be able to buy pancakes in supermarkets in Lithuania, but you can easily order them in restaurants across the country.
This dish was traditionally a staple food in Aukštaitija (highlands) region.
Women used to make it from many different flour varieties; they even used dry pea flour!
8. Alus (beer).
Like most nations in the world, Lithuanians have their own long history of brewing beer and, of course, enjoying it.
Any supermarket has a huge variety of Lithuanian beers, so I dare you, go get one and see what you think of it!
9. Midus (mead).
Well known across the world for thousands of years, traditionally this alcoholic drink was made of water and honey.
Apparently, we Lithuanians have one of the oldest mead recipes in the world.
The first time Lithuanian midus was mentioned in written documentation was around 64-24BC, when in his famous manuscript ‘Geographica,’ the great Geographer of Antiquity Strabo mentions Baltic tribes making a drink from honey and grain.
Today the locals love having midus on special occasions and give it as a traditional gift to visitors from abroad.
So if you are looking for a gift for those who stayed at home, midus will be a perfect choice.
10. Karaim kibinai.
Strictly speaking, kibinai is not a Lithuanian dish.
However, I have to mention it here since it is a living monument to Lithuanian Karaim community, whose ancestors came to Lithuania in the 14th century as bodyguards to the Grand Duke Vytautas and settled in the old capital Trakai.
In Lithuania you’ll find kibinai as a fast food option everywhere, they can be eaten hot or cold.
11. Fermented cabbage, cucumber, and other vegetables.
Yes, you can buy these in shops!
Fermentation process for food preservation has been known around the world for many thousands of years, and Lithuania is no exception.
Today, almost every Lithuanian home makes fermented cabbage and cucumber for winter using their own family recipes.
Fermenting your vegetables at home can be a bit of a hassle, so thankfully, supermarkets and outdoor markets sell this goodness ready-made.
Did you know that fermented vegetables are actually one of the most nutritious foodstuffs you can get?
But make sure not to confuse fermented vegetables with pickled ones – these are two different processes.
So if you taste any of the above, you can pat yourself on the back – you have just tasted a piece of authentic Lithuanian cuisine and know more about it than the average local.
Delicatessen shops and artisan markets across the country sell Lithuanian heritage food of superior quality, the only question is, do you have time and energy to seek those locations out?
If you are like most visitors, chances are, your trip to Lithuania is going to last only a couple of days.
So head to a local supermarket and enjoy a journey through Lithuanian culinary history in one place!
Eat authentic Lithuanian cuisine food, enjoy your life!
If you fancy discovering more about authentic Lithuanian cuisine, have a look at this book on Amazon where the author takes you on a journey of Lithuanian cooking.
Another interesting book about the essence of Lithuanian home cooking is by a locally famous food journalist, author and presenter Beata Nicholson, discover HERE.
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