In Lithuania, so much of our food comes from the land – we catch it in our clear lakes and lagoons, hunt it in our forests, harvest it in our fields, and ripen it in our gardens. Then the talented hands of our cooks prepare it all and put it on the table. Lithuanian cuisine is known for its naturalness, for ancient cooking traditions served up in new ways, and for aesthetics, without which no breakfast, lunch or dinner is imaginable. Don’t be surprised if instead of an avocado, you’re served a kohlrabi, or if instead of tuna, you get a piece of local zander. And if for dessert you’re offered a piece of curd cheese pie with nettle filling or red beet jelly! All you have to do is sit down and taste everything in front of you.
Gastronomic experiences have become a key component of any trip. An evening in Georgia is unimaginable without a glass of local wine. Italy is famous for its outstanding pizza, while the most emblematic dish in Spain is paella. And it would be simply unforgivable to visit Belgium without trying its chocolate, reputedly the best in the world. So, what enticing flavours can foreign guests expect to discover while visiting Lithuania?
Have you already heard about Lithuanian cepelinai? The grated potato dumplings shaped like Zeppelins that are stuffed with meat, curd cheese or mushrooms? But that’s not all! Lithuanian cuisine has deep culinary traditions and experiences. And it’s best to experience it travelling around the country’s different regions, where the dishes originally came from. In Dzūkija, you’ll get potato banda and buckwheat boba. In Samogitia, they’ll make you kastinys or cibulinė soup. In Sudovia they’ll slice you a piece of smoked skilandis, or pull a head of cabbage stuffed with meatAvez-vous déjà entendu parler du cepelinai lituanien? Les boulettes de pommes de terre râpées en forme de Zeppelins farcies de viande, de fromage en grains ou de champignons? Mais ce n'est pas tout! La cuisine lituanienne a de profondes traditions et expériences culinaires. Et il est préférable de le découvrir en voyageant dans les différentes régions du pays, d'où les plats provenaient à l'origine. À Dzūkija, vous obtiendrez du banda de pommes de terre et du boba de sarrasin. En Samogitie, ils vous feront des kastinys ou de la soupe cibulinė. À Sudovia, ils vous trancheront un morceau de skilandis fumé ou sortiront une tête de chou farcie de viande du four. Et à Aukštaitija, ils vous verseront certainement un verre de bière ou de gira (kvass) maison. Mettez un tablier et passez derrière le four, la cuisinière ou allumez-vous - c'est une excellente occasion non seulement de goûter à la cuisine traditionnelle lituanienne, mais aussi d'apprendre quelque chose que vous ne trouverez jamais dans votre propre pays. out of the oven. And in Aukštaitija, they’ll definitely pour you a glass of home-brewed beer or gira (kvass). Put on an apron and get behind the oven, stove or fire yourself – this is a great opportunity not only to taste Lithuanian traditional food but also to learn something that you would never find in your own country.
Treating a guest is an old Lithuanian tradition. And we adhere to it with sincerity. That’s why traditional holiday table is so important in Lithuania. The custom of heaping people’s plates with food without asking if they want any is slowly fading, but our traditional holidays still involve gatherings around the table, heartfelt conversations with family, and lots and lots of traditional dishes.
There are five regions in Lithuania, within which the people cook traditional dishes that differ in character and content. Each regional kitchen has its own special ingredients.
Dzūkija is famous for mushrooms, berries, and buckwheat dishes – it is considered to be the capital of forest riches.
The manor houses of the Lithuanian nobility used to be famous for their hospitality and manor cuisine - for its delicious dishes. The owners even competed with each other to see who could get the better chef from France or Italy. Delicacies from Lithuania’s forests and fields spiced up by seasoning from overseas were highly valued by guests. Legend has it that for a true nobleman, dying at the table was an honourable way to go. The tradition of stuffing a guest full has survived to this day in the manors of Lithuania that have now been restored. Manor kitchens hold special dinners. You have to prepare yourself for these feasts – it’s best to come on an empty stomach.
Many roads have crossed Lithuania over the centuries. History led to ethnic minorities and ethnic groups settling in our small country, and they have become an integral part of our lives and our traditions. Ethnic minority cuisine has as well. Jews, Russians, Poles, Ruthenians, or Belarusians, and the Tartars and Karaims who remained from the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania have all put dishes on our table without which we can’t even imagine our holidays. In the historical Lithuanian capital of Trakai, you can find kybyn – pastries with meat that are made by the Karaims who live here. At the old Tatar village in Raižiai, in the district of Alytus, the locals will treat you to šimtalapis – their traditional “hundred-leaf” cake with poppy seeds. In Vilnius, enjoy some Russian dumplings and be sure to try Jewish bagels as well as Jewish herring with raisins and cinnamon.
Traditional beverages have always been an integral part of our history. “I drank beer and mead; it ran down my beard...” that’s how all Lithuanian fairy tales end. Mead produced according to the Lithuanian custom was written about as far back as the 16th century, and historians claim that Lithuanians might have already been drinking mead made from honey during the Mesolithic Period. Beer began to spread here along with agriculture, and later Lithuanians began to produce wine as well. Beverages have always been an integral part of Lithuanian holidays and religious rituals, and brewers took much care to preserve the ancient recipes and pass them down from generation to generation. Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out what authentic Lithuanian berry wine, beer and mead actually taste like?