Photos: Restaurant “Senoji trobelė”
Over the centuries Lithuanians have created a unique palette of dishes, influenced by the culture of various nationalities. A distinctive trait of Lithuanian cuisine is the preponderance of potato dishes. The most impressive of these is cepelinai (‘Zeppelins’), large boiled potato dumplings (made from grated raw potato) with fillings of minced meat or cottage cheese. Other traditional potato dishes are various types of kugelis (potato loaf) and potato salad, potato pancakes made from grated raw potato or boiled potato (sometimes – with a meat filling), and small potato dumplings with mushroom or berry filling. Perhaps the most exotic Lithuanian dish is vėdarai or ‘potato sausages’ – pork intestines stuffed with grated raw potato, baked in a wood stove or electric oven.
An important place in Lithuanian cuisine is occupied by small dumplings (called koldūnai or virtiniai) made from dough and with a filling of meat, mushrooms, berries or cottage cheese. An interesting variety of koldūnai is “tinginiai” (“lazy bones”) – half-moon shaped dumplings with a filling of freshly crushed blueberries. In most Lithuanian restaurants you can order kibinai and čeburėkai, which are imports from Karaim cuisine. Also popular are various types of pancakes made from flour (instead of grated raw potato), some with fillings of fruit or berries, others ‘plain’, made from yeast-raised dough, and served dipped in sour cream or berry jam. For a snack you can try marinated or salted herring with boiled potatoes, various kinds of cottage cheese or fermented cheeses, and hot-smoked or cold-smoked hams and sausages. Lithuanians also know many recipes for mushroom dishes. Mushrooms are used in sauces, as fillings, or served as an accompaniment to meat dishes.
Soup is very popular in Lithuania. There is vegetable soup, meat soup, soup with chicken or other poultry or game, even beer soup. One of the most interesting Lithuanian soups is šaltibarščiai (cold beetroot soup), which is made from beets/beetroot, kefir (a fermented milk product), greens and boiled eggs. This dish is most popular when served on a hot summer day.
Each Lithuanian region has its own culinary specialties, which is why it is sometimes said that Lithuania has not just one national cuisine, but several. Aukštaitija (central/northeastern Lithuania) is renowned for its dough-based dishes such as pancakes and dumplings. The ‘specialty’ of Dzūkija (southern Lithuania) is mushrooms. In Suvalkija (western Lithuania) many meat products are produced, including skilandis (cold-smoked pig’s stomach stuffed with minced meat and garlic), sausages and hams. In Žemaitija (northwestern Lithuania) there are many potato dishes.