To me, food is one of the things that can make or break a trip away. I bet hundreds of thousands of us travellers out there have many a horror story about food they encountered while on holiday. For myself, food in a foreign country has to be local. I want to be able to try traditional cuisines because I feel like it makes my visit more authentic. I feel guilty if I opt for the burger on the menu instead of something more adventurous. The foods I discovered in Latvia are either going to persuade you to my way of thinking or have you believing I’m some sort of a madman!
- Pig’s Ears.
Typically when me and my partner are on holiday, we use TripAdvisor to help us decide where to eat. We’ve tried it the other way, where we just walk around the city and pick a place we like the look of. However, this has always ended in arguments so I give in and use the app. MILDA – the restaurant we went to on our first night stuck out at us for being close to our hotel and having really good reviews. Finding the place turned out to be tricky because it is tucked into a little square, which must be a lot busier during peak trading months. When we arrived, there was only the waitress sat alone, she showed us to our table and took our drink orders. It was nice to have the whole restaurant to ourselves. When I opened the menu I was instantly hit with an array of Latvian and Lithuanian dishes. To start we had the sharing platter (top right photo) this had on it a large selection of meats and cheeses. European meats don’t seem to agree with me for some reason – I had the same problem in Budapest. I still gave it a try and ate most of them, they went really well with the cheese and bread and it was authentic so I was happy. That is until.. The pig ears! I knew it was on the menu, which just made me more intrigued to try them. They are those long thin red meats with a white line down the middle (see pic). I picked one up and bravely put it in my mouth. The crunches were almighty! I had to discreetly put it back on the plate and that was the end of that. I’m glad I tried it but never again. I’ll leave it up to you and see if you’re brave enough if you ever visit Latvia.
2. The Main Course
Thankfully our main course was delightful enough to make me forget about the ordeal of the pig ears. I believe it’s a typical Lithuanian dish (see pic under sharing platter) and I would describe it as dumplings stuffed with meat, with potatoes and sour cream to top it off. As well as being interesting to look at, to my surprise it was incredibly tasty and for its size it really filled me up! If you’re wanting to try something authentic then that’s the dish I would recommend because it’s not too overwhelming and you still feel like you have tried a dish from the local area.
3. Riga Balsam
I had never heard of Riga Balsam before I went to the city, but after a couple of days there I’m sure I’ll never forget it. I can only describe it as somewhere between Jägermeister and Covonia cough syrup. It’s tradition to get a shot of it after every meal. Our friendly waitress walked out with two glasses. In one restaurant there was even steam coming from the glasses. I’m not very good with alcohol but I downed it in one to look like I was. There was no need to worry about the November chill outside because it warmed me right up. My partner was making a whole range of facial expressions – I don’t think he liked it. I actually started to grow accustom to the Balsam the more of it I drank and I like how they made a show of it because it’s what they’re known for. If you become a hard-core fan of the stuff while you’re away it’s sold in bottles all across Riga!
That was only the start of our food adventure in Riga, like any other capital city the amount of restaurants and other eateries are endless. There is going to be something for everyone so if you’re a bit scared of the weird and wonderful foods of Latvia you’re not going to starve. However, I do urge you to try them – come on just one little pig’s ear?