Latvian Food and Drink

Latvian food has a lot of foreign elements. The young country borrows a lot from its neighboring countries. There is a wide variety of contemporary and traditional food and drink options especially Riga, its capital. Latvian food has always been a bit fatty, heave, high in calories and low in spices. However there are still options for those who trying to avoid fatty foods. There are also some vegan restaurants.

Latvian food is hardly complete without pork. Karbonade ar kaulu(grill pork chops), cukas stilbs (pork knuckles) and karbonade (pork schnitzel) are all favorites. Try grudenis (pig’s head stew), cukas kajas ( pig’s feet) and cukas ausis (pig’s ears) for more exotic pig dishes. Potatoes are served with almost all Latvian foods. They can be boiled, fried or boiled then friend and mashed.

 

A typical Latvian menu has:

Appetizers

Vegetable tarts. These are some delicious tarts with either carrots or potato filling.

Bacon rolls. They are half-moon-shaped rolls stuffed with onions, eggs and bacon. They are served with a cup of chicken broth. This is the foundation of Latvian food. It is best when served straight from the oven.

 

Soups

Meatball soup. It’s an absolutely delicious soup made from meatballs.

Cold beet soup. This soup is typical for all Eastern Europe meals. It is totally mouth watering.

 

Main dish

Groats Porridge. This is grain porridge with potatoes and streaky bacon. The combination can be nothing short of delicious. It is at times served as a starter but people also have it for lunch.

Herring with cottage cheese and potatoes. This is a combination of the three most typical Latvian foods. It makes the ultimate Latvian dish.

 

Desserts

Potato Pancakes. You can’t resist these. They are crispy and salty with berry jam and sour cream.

Layered rye bread. It comprises of airy layered substance that is made of rye breadcrumbs, cranberry jam and whipped cream. It is an exclusively Latvian delicacy. Actually its second name is Latvian Ambrosia.

Cranberry Pudding. It’s some sweet farina porridge with cranberries as light as air and it instantly melts in the mouth.

For the best ingredients, visit a market in Riga

 

Drinks

There are plenty of Latvian beer and liquor to wash down your meal. There are also some fresh natural juices made using wild berries.

Black Balsam. This is an alcoholic and also herbal drink which has been in existence for over 300 years. The specific procedure of preparing it is a very closely guarded secret. Things used to make it include: bitter orange, ginger, peel, oak bark and cognac. It can be drunk on its own, with vodka or with coffee. It is the most popular among locals and tourists as well.

Kvass is a drink prepared using grains which are in their early fermentation stage.

Brengulu and Bralis are the best brands of Latvian beer. For a cheaper and still great alternative consider Uzavas beer.

The legal alcohol drinking age in Riga is 18 years. You should also know that drinking or being in possession of an open can or bottle of alcohol in parks, streets and public places in general is not allowed in Riga.

 

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For a video perspective on Latvian food, enjoy the short video below!

Latvian History- A Brief Overview

Introduction

Latvian history is characterized by repeated occupation for over eight centuries mainly due to its central location in European trade routes which made it a highly contested region from the 11th century onwards. Germany controlled the country from the 13th to the 16th centuries, followed by Poland in the 16th century, and then the Swedes took over from the early 17th century to the 18th century before it finally became a part of Russia in 1721.

In the early part of the 20th century (1918), Latvia declared independence for the first time although this period was marked by instability- first a civil war that lasted two years, and which was closely followed by two more decades of political instability.

The Great War

At the start of World War II, Latvia came under the control of the USSR before being occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940, which lasted until the end of the war. During this period, over 90,000 Gypsies and Jews were tortured and murdered in the infamous Nazi concentration camps.

The Cold War Era

After the defeat of Nazi Germany, the USSR resumed control of Latvia. During this time, the forced adoption of Soviet policies coupled with immigration from other areas of the USSR dramatically changed Latvian culture. To begin with, Russian was officially adopted as the country’s second language with its citizens forced to adopt Russian farming methods. In addition, the USSR based many of its factories in the country, especially Riga, inevitably precipitating a shift to manufacturing as the core of the Latvian economy.

Latvian Independence

In 1987, the first protests against Russian rule began to be witnessed when over 5,000 people gathered in the capital, Riga. Subsequent widespread demonstrations followed throughout the rest of the country in 1988, culminating in over two million Baltic States’ citizens creating a human chain as a symbol for calls for independence in 1989.

During this time, the PLF (Popular Front of Latvia) was gaining support and momentum and in 1989, they voiced their support for the independence of Latvia. In 1990, the party won a majority in the elections but it would not be until 21st August 1991 that the country would declare its independence. On 6th September 1991, Russia officially recognized Latvia as an independent state and a week later, the newly established country became a member of the United Nations.

Post-Independence Latvia

In the present day, Latvia still retains the economic and cultural influences from each of the countries that have been involved in its centuries of occupation, but most importantly, it has still held on to its unique Latvian culture. However, language still remains a contested social issue even though Latvian is recognized as the country’s official language. The foregoing notwithstanding, other languages are still widely spoken- with Russian being the first language for a somewhat sizeable minority of this Baltic state.

Agriculture and manufacturing remain the largest economic activities in the country despite an economic downturn experienced in 2008 which curtailed the progress of what had been up to that point, Europe’s fastest growing economy. Today, Latvia has largely recovered from this economic contraction although unemployment still remains high relative to where it was before 2008.

 

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Information About Latvia and her Culture