Culinary traditions and experiences
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 meat 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.
Kneaded by caring hands, put in a warm place to rise, and then baked among hot coals before making it to our table, this loaf of bread smells different. And it tastes different too. Don’t believe it? Follow the path bread takes, from the rye field to the table, and see for yourself. Try sweeping out the oven, piling the coals, kneading the dough, and putting it into the oven. And then later, sit down at the table and take a bite of a fragrant slice.
We’re not French, but we really like cheese. We make it from milk that smells of forests and meadows. We eat it fresh, fried, smoked, or dried; we eat it flavoured with caraway seeds or herbs, topped with honey, or sprinkled with pepper. The process is just as delicious as the cheese. You can visit a goat, sheep or cow farm and find out how milk gets from the fields and meadows to the cheesemaker. You’ll learn how cheese is made and how long it is matured, and the hospitable hosts will definitely treat you to their best products and maybe even ask you to milk a goat.
You will experience the real taste of Lithuania cuisine if you taste this easy-to-cook soup, especially popular in Lithuania – „šaltibarčiai“ (cold beetroot oup, pink soup)! The soup has a shocking bright pink colour due to the natural beetroot juice and an incredibly fresh taste due to the most important ingriedent in the cold soup – kephir, recognized by nutritionists as one of the healthiest products in the world.
Carlo petrini, an Italian founder and leader of the famous Slow Food movement, has called Lithuanian cold beetroot soup „the world‘s most aesthetic cold soup“.
Cake on a spit. A little bit like a pastry decorated with crisp or soft “branches”. Only much tastier! The batter for this delicacy is made with at least 100 eggs, a few kilograms of butter, sugar, and a secret ingredient that makes each recipe different. You’ll get one type of šakotis in Sudovia, and something different in Druskininkai. This is where you can try turning the spit yourself, taste the results, and find out about the history of this treat at the Šakotis Museum. Sure, we admit – this dessert is a real cholesterol bomb, but it’s worth trying.
This, heavy, filling dish is most delicious when it is made from fresh potatoes. Lithuanians, nevertheless, are so fond of it, that they cook it all year round. Once you try this fatty dish, you will really understand why you should not enjoy it too often! Although they are usually cooked with a meat filling, there are many other options suitable for vegetarians – with curd, mushrooms, vegetables... just brainstorm a bit!
Our countless lakes and rivers, lagoons and the Baltic Sea are generous with their wealth. Who knows, maybe you’ll catch the fish of your life in Lithuania? And if you do, you better know how to eat it. The water lands all have their own secrets for you to discover. Depending on the region, you can taste fish soup cooked over a fire or prepared in a manor kitchen, or fish fried up in a pan or stuffed with the most interesting fillings. Experienced fishermen will tell you how to weave a net, how to catch a big fish, and what wood to use to smoke the best fish.
Back when there were no refrigerators, Lithuanians would take everything they grew in summer and pickle it for winter. Pickling is coming back into fashion, so Lithuanians are pulling out the recipes their great grandparents used to use and inviting you to eat healthy. You can take pickling lessons to learn which vegetables and greens work best, how to make natural black bread starter at home, which fermented beverages do the best job quenching your thirst, and what you can bake using fermented dairy products.
There are just a few bakers left who know how to made Dzūkian banda. And the ones who mix the batter, which is made from buckwheat flour, soured milk, eggs and butter, in one direction in the bowl. Why in one direction? No one knows. That’s the tradition. You can make the batter with buckwheat flour and put it into the oven yourself, and while you’re waiting for it to bake, you can listen to stories about the traditions of Dzūkija cuisine and the secrets of mushrooming.