A Guide To Baltic Cuisine

FullSizeRenderOld Market Square, Poznań, Poland

The Baltic states of northeast Europe are woefully underrated as travel destinations. Calmer and quieter than the tourist hubbub of the Mediterranean, they boast beautifully warm climes in the summer and are filled with unspoiled countrysides and richly varied examples of urban architecture.

Encompassing the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, the old sovereign countries of Russia and Poland, as well as the southern Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the capitals of these Baltic countries all still retain an imperial air about them, combining an archaic charm with a thriving contemporary arts and entertainment scene. A Baltic sea cruise is a fabulous opportunity to discover all of this for yourself, with the regular ports of call also providing you with the opportunity to try the mouth-watering Baltic cuisine

Southern Baltics: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania

Soviet reign following WWII means that traditional food is rebellion here. Lithuanian Rugine Duona, a dark rye bread complements soups made of foraged wild mushrooms and sour cream; and sweet extravagant tortes are offered by many coffee shops. 

The cuisine of Latvia, by contrast, is a little fattier, as is its capital city of Riga. Slow food styled, Van Gogh inspired restaurant Vincent’s, offer samples of various pork-based delicacies, Biezpiens, and a variety of soft cheeses often flavoured with caraway seeds.

Estonian cuisine is very similar in its core dishes, but traditionally cold potato salads make refreshing starters, bulked out with cured meats. Once again, rye bread is a staple and meals are opened by saying “jätku leiba” (may your bread last). Locally brewed beers and fruit wines (made with apples or berries) are often enjoyed with meals.

Scandinavian Treasures: Sweden, Finland

As we approach the North Sea, we see the cuisine begin to shift and twist a little with different seasonings. Fresh fish is easily available, unusually inspiring many the sushi restaurants open in Stockholm. More traditional Swedish fare includes crayfish and pickled herring, accompanied by different crispbreads, and meatballs. Desserts are plentiful, ranging from princess cake to lingonberry jam on buns.

Finland’s traditional cuisine is remarkably similar, but favours less sweet ingredients, with a variety of vegetable and fish based soups making up much of the fare, with bitter rye bread. Even the desserts are slightly sharper, with cloudberry jam and cake being particularly popular; as is bilberry pie with ice cream. These berries often find themselves as flavours for liqueurs as well.

Imperial Histories: Russia, Poland

The eclectic cuisine of Poland is particularly hearty. Dishes comprised mainly of meat, dairy, and eggs mean that you’re unlikely to go hungry after enjoying Kielbasa sausages with herby sauces or Pierogi dumplings. Puddings are numerous and plenty, ranging from chocolate prunes to Chalka bread.

The vast expanse of Russia means that its cuisine is incredibly diverse, with European and Asian influences. Soup is a staple and ranges from light vegetable stocks to hearty fish broths. A speciality is Pirozkhi, fried buns stuffed with meat, eggs, or vegetables with sautéd onions. Vodka made with different grains is also a traditional feature, and delightfully different to the standard version in Europe.

Note: This is a collaborative piece.

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