Lithuania is a country with many hidden secrets, and one of them is its incredible foods. During the past couple of years, we’ve tried to highlight some of its gastronomic offerings, and still, the country continues to surprise us. For starters, try to imagine what Smoked Mackerel ice cream would do to your senses!
Over the past twelve months, a few people have questioned why we regularly feature Lithuania? No, we don’t have a member of the editorial team with Lithuania blood running through their veins! It’s simply the fact that it is a lesser-known destination, and the more you learn about the country, the more you want to head there and experience what it has to offer.
For example, its gastronomic side is quite extraordinary and offers travellers everything from the finest cuisine by Michelin-starred chefs to the somewhat mind-bending Smoked Mackerel ice cream and tasty street food, all of which make it a bit of a ‘foodies paradise’.
If you’re one of the people that like to challenge their palates, summertime in Lithuania is a great time and place to do it. There’s a whole heap of undiscovered delights ranging from mackerel ice cream to the fermented drink Gira.
During summer, the country is filled with colours, flavours and sounds. However, we can appreciate that the notion of mackerel ice cream won’t appeal to everyone, so if you’re not a big fan of extreme foods, don’t worry as there is more than enough choice to cater for all tastes.
Below are five of the many Lithuanian gastronomical delights to try this summer.
Unexpected Lithuanian Ice Cream Flavours (including Smoked Mackerel!)
If one had to define the general attitude of Lithuanians towards ice cream, it would be anything but “vanilla.” That is because, over the last couple of years, chefs in Lithuania have been looking for new and exciting ways to create ice cream flavours with a local touch.
Aside from the more traditional strawberry and homemade chocolate flavours, the country’s visitors can find cucumber, dill (above), lavender, nettle, and even marinated Smoke Mackerel ice cream varieties that create an unanticipated tastebud experience.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you and if you’d rather try something that is guaranteed to raise your spirits, there’s always a vodka sorbet that comes in a variety of flavours or some traditional locally brewed beer.
The Lithuanian Gira that is made by combining organic honey, spring water, and—perhaps surprisingly—black rye bread crust is a fizzy naturally fermented drink that sits somewhere in between pop, non-alcoholic beer, and kombucha.
It is one of the most ancient of Lithuanian drinks, and the sweet, fragrant, and slightly tangy Gira of today is a staple of city fairs and music festivals, where it is poured straight from chilled kegs. For a more traditional experience heading to Tytuvėnai Monastery is a perfect choice. Here, the local monks teach visitors the ancient ways of making Gira and can treat your tastebuds to five different types of this refreshing beverage.
Pink, Cold, Kinky Soup
Šaltibarščiai is traditionally made by mixing kefir, pickled beetroot, spring onions, fresh cucumbers, dill, and served with a side plate of hot potatoes and lots of aromatic herbs. It is one of the most iconic Lithuanian summer dishes. The “pink soup”, as foreign visitors frequently refer to it, has been a huge hit with locals for centuries due to its unusual and somewhat bizarre combination of ingredients.
Also, due to its high probiotic and antioxidant content, fermented foods like Šaltibarčiai have attracted the attention of the health-conscious crowd around the world. The dish has been voted as a flagship of Lithuanian cuisine, and visitors to the country can show they’ve experienced it with šaltibarščiai-patterned T-shirts or socks, which also make great souvenirs.
Long and Winding Beer Routes
By a long way, beer Beer is the preferred alcoholic drink in Lithuania. In fact, this drink is rooted so deeply into the local culture that Lithuanians used to worship Ragutis: the pagan god of beer. The country has more than eighty breweries, most of which both follow ancient traditions whilst experimenting with new flavours like mango or coffee. While sampling different beer varieties can be exciting on its own, Lithuania is also a great place for visitors to explore the traditional art of brewing and fermentation.
For example, the Rinkuškiai Brewery invites visitors to take the Beer Route and explore ancient beer-making traditions of the Biržai region—locally known to produce the best (and the strongest) beer in the country. Similarly, the Pakruojis Beer Route offers travellers a chance to visit three unique breweries of the Aukštaitija region and sample different beers and local delicacies.
Fried Rye Bread and Other Kitchen Crimes
As most Lithuanians know—drinking beer without snacks does not count as drinking beer. One type of snack in particular—pan-fried rye garlic bread with cheese dip and its unparalleled combination with ice-cold beer makes it the uncontested king of the tablecloth. Crispy, golden brown, and addictively crunchy, this delicious savoury treat is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
For something a little lighter, you should try the silky white cheese and its combination with honey, as well as one of the most popular Lithuanian desserts, which is a less than obvious combination of honey and cucumber.
If you consider yourself a true ‘foodie’, Lithuania should sit atop your places to go list. It offers everything from the refined to the bizarre, which will result in an unforgettable experience. Imagine the look on your friends’ faces when you describe to them what it was like eating Smoked Mackerel ice cream. It would be a timeless anecdote, and that’s the big lure of Lithuania; It has so much yet to be discovered, and after a visit, you’ll have a whole raft of new tales, stories and uniquely personal experiences.
To learn about Lithuania more visit www.Lithuania.travel.