While Lithuania’s true historic cuisine is very old and unique, because of the country’s geopolitical situation our food today is more like a many-layered cake. Over the centuries we have adopted the best of other countries’ cuisines – ingredients, dishes, cooking and presentation techniques. What’s interesting is that each new layer – whether related to Byzantine Greece, our Italian-born queen Bona Sforza, or French Enlightenment-era cuisine – was incorporated without erasing traditional gastronomic customs, which the innovations simply enriched with new tastes and forms.
Today, Lithuanian cuisine continues to cleverly integrate the most modern ideas about food into the already complex heritage we have from the country’s rich history and multicultural heritage. The result is a unique gastronomic culture that delights locals and visitors alike.
Lithuanian manor-house cuisine will transport you to the 16th century, when the country’s nobility liked to feast on all sorts of wild-game dishes – rabbit stew with beets, marinated and roasted deer, venison dumplings, pheasant baked in pastry, crab leg soup, or specially fed and roasted capon.
You may not understand what it is, but you just have to try it! A bowl of šaltibarščiai – a cold, thick, pink beet soup seasoned with dill and cucumber, and garnished with chopped boiled egg – is a trip to the heart of Lithuania. As is a plate of our other signature dish, cepelinai – zeppelin-shaped potato dumplings filled with ground meat and generously topped with bacon bits and a dollop of rich sour cream, or (if you’re lucky to be at a new Lithuanian cuisine restaurant) a vegan filling of carrot, mushrooms and ground hempseed.
And you simply can’t leave Lithuania without tasting our traditional black bread. Better yet – attend a workshop where you can learn centuries-old bread-making secrets and enjoy the rich smell of dark loaves as they come out of a wood-burning oven.
One of the best gifts you can bring from Lithuania is our šakotis cake, without which we simply can’t imagine a festive table. It’s baked in an unusual way – a dense batter of eggs, butter, cream and flour is slowly drizzled onto a long, hollow form that is turned over an open fire, producing a delightful, and delicious, pine-tree shaped delicacy.
Lithuanians really care about good food, so you are sure to find good restaurants not only in the big cities, but by the seaside, along highways, in the prettiest rural spots and even hidden away in forests. Food is always an adventure here – plates contain not only Lithuanian farmers’ excellent produce, but also the essence of spring, summer, fall and winter.
Photo credits: Real is beautiful Stock