So you have arrived at this small Baltic country Lithuania and, most likely, you are wondering what authentic Lithuanian cuisine tastes like and whether you could take some of it home as a souvenir.
As we have 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 foodstuffs you can easily buy in any supermarket.
Juoda duona – brown rye bread.
This bread has been made in the region 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.
Lašiniai has been a popular food across the country for many hundreds of years and loved by the locals today.
It can be eaten raw or cooked, added as a condiment to a variety of dishes. 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 – lašiniai is sold 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.
It was traditionally made of pig’s stomach or bladder stuffed with a variety of meats, looking a bit like a round sausage.
Today butchers do not necessarily stuff an animal’s stomach or bladder but keep the same recognizable round shape.
As with other products, you can get skilandis in every supermarket, butcher’s or grocery’s shop.
6. Žemaitiškas kastinys (Samogitian sour cream butter).
It is an ancient dish coming from Samogitian region in Lithuania.
Kastinys is a savory spread made from cream with consistency reminding butter.
Made with garlic, pepper and various herbs it can be served with a variety of hot dishes, such as potato, dumplings, pasta or can be used 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 and was made using 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.
We are told that Lithuanian recipe is among the oldest 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 midus is loved by the locals and is often presented as a gift to foreign visitors.
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, it is not a Lithuanian dish, but I have to mention it here since it is a living monument to Lithuanian Karaim community, whose ancestors were brought to Lithuania in the 14th century by Grand Duke Vytautas and were 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, fermented cabbage and cucumber are two most popular winter foods in almost every Lithuanian home where every family has their own 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 as you have just tasted a piece of authentic Lithuanian cuisine and know more about it than the average local.
But 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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