Gastronomy is one of the vital parts of any culture. And eating like a local always gives you a better perspective of any culture, much more closely than visiting a touristy spot. The country of Latvia is also rich in gastronomy. Latvian cuisine is an essential part of their cultural tradition. Some local dishes there might seem a bit odd by sight, but there is no better way to delve into a distinguished memorable culinary journey than to try the local Latvian foods by yourself. Here are a few Latvian delicacies to experience the tradition.
Rye Breads are a Latvian staple. Rye Breads come in different variations in the country, like sweet sourdough, rich dark, etc. Rye bread is a popular accompaniment in any Latvian meal, which can go with almost any dish. With a spread of butter, some cheese, and pieces of ham, it is also a commonly consumed go-to breakfast for the locals.
Speck is a centuries-old food tradition of Latvia. It is a type of extremely fatty smoked bacon made from pork belly. Centuries ago, it was consumed by the local villagers, to gain a lot of extra energy to be able to work hard in the fields every day. ‘pelēkie zirņi ar speķi’ is one of the most traditional dishes made with speck. This simple but tasty dish is made from fried onions, mixed with speck and different types of peas.
Another common smoked protein of Latvia is smoked fish. Having direct access to the Baltic Sea, fish has taken up a major part of Latvian cuisine for ages. Eel, pike, and cod are the most traditional dishes, among many others. Fishes are smoked in long batches in Latvian households to make them tastier and more durable. ‘Liepajas menciņš’ is a never-to-miss dish if you are looking to try an authentic Latvian dish. This signature dish of Liepaja region is made from smoked cod, onions, and potatoes.
For many, eating more sustainably excludes tinned food, but this is not the case, especially when it comes to seafood. More on that can be found below, but another benefit of preserving seafood, such as clams, mackerel, mussels, sardines, and anchovies is good news for the ocean as chowing down smaller fish relieves the pressure on larger and more threatened species.
Food Services & The Rise of Tinned Fish
Before we continue, it’s important to mention that tinned food doesn’t necessarily mean the disgusting tuna you remember from your youth. Not by any means. The canned food tradition has become a thing in the southern European region, made by artisan producers with the finest quality seafood, preserving it at the peak of freshness.
Take Brookylin’s wine bar Rhodora for example. It’s a beautifully designed, wood-paneled space with a lofty no-food-waste goal. It’s mainly Spanish-inflected canned seafood or conservas are the big draws. The menu includes specialty treats such as petite, golden-hued cockles preserved in brine, and hand-cut morsels of octopus packed with nuggets of garlic in zesty Portuguese olive oil.
Canned Fish Is Healthy
As long as you keep tuna, swordfish, and other rich-in-mercury seafood out of your diet, the majority of tinned fish is great from a health perspective. SMASH is the nifty acronym to help you remember the best fish:
Tinned Fish in Home Kitchens
When there’s nothing except for tinned fish in your kitchen (hopefully, it’s one of the SMASH ones), think of Mediterranean cooking, where these types of proteins feature alongside healthy fats, whole grains, and fresh produce. The best thing? The Mediterranean recipes are known to be simple.
These include toasts with small tinned fish and fresh herbs or just a few atop a simple salad. Anchovies are also great when tossed into a tomato-y pasta dish.
Bottom line is, people suddenly got used to stacking food, and the best option is tinned SMASH fishes. Restaurants are pulling it off, it’s convenient for households, it’s great for health, and most importantly, it’s delicious.