Culinary specialities in Lithuania! Lithuanian cuisine is very much based on tradition, so yes, you won’t always be eating your carbo pasta, or even your excellent prime rib, but I’m sure you’ll find it just as good. We’ve already sent quite a few people to Lithuania, and they have some excellent memories! You can also read Teddy’s testimonial on our blog, who went on a work placement in Vilnius with International Horizons.
Culinary specialities in Lithuania through the composition of meals in Lithuania
The Lithuanian diet is made up of a variety of foods that reflect both local culinary traditions and regional influences. Here’s what you’ll usually find for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Lithuania:
- Dairy products: Milk, yoghurt, fromage frais and local cheeses are commonly eaten for breakfast.
- Bread and cereals: Black bread, rye bread and cereals such as oats are popular for breakfast. Bread with butter, cheese or jam is common.
- Šaltibarščiai: This cold soup made from beetroot and fermented milk is sometimes eaten for breakfast.
- Žemaičių blynai: These are thick pancakes made from grated potatoes and flour, often served with sour cream.
- Soups: Soups are an essential part of the Lithuanian breakfast. Beetroot soup (borscht) and mushroom soup are popular examples.
- Meat: Pork, beef and chicken are often used in the main lunch dishes. Traditional dishes include kugelis (potato and bacon gratin), cepelinai (stuffed potato gnocchi) and skilandis (smoked pork sausage).
- Potatoes: Potatoes are a basic ingredient in many Lithuanian dishes, either as a side dish or as the main ingredient.
- Salads: Salads made from fresh vegetables, such as cucumber and tomato salad, are commonly served as a side dish.
- A variety of dishes: Dinner in Lithuania may include a variety of dishes, similar to those for lunch, but may be lighter.
- Fish: Due to its proximity to the Baltic Sea, Lithuania also offers fish dishes such as marinated herring, smoked trout and freshwater fish.
- Desserts: Traditional Lithuanian desserts include šakotis (fir tree-shaped cake), fritters (spurgos) and sweet potato pancakes (kugelis saldus).
It should be noted that these examples are a general representation of the Lithuanian diet, and that individual preferences and eating habits may vary. Lithuanian cuisine often emphasises local ingredients and traditional recipes handed down from generation to generation.
Culinary specialities in Lithuania through the art of the table
Of course! A traditional Lithuanian meal is generally a warm and convivial experience, where family and friends gather around the table to share a hearty meal. Here is a general description of how to eat and the social codes at the table in Lithuania:
- Warm welcome: When you are invited to a traditional Lithuanian meal, you will receive a warm and hospitable welcome. The hosts will do their best to make you feel comfortable and welcome.
- Toasts: Before the meal begins, it is customary to make toasts to celebrate the occasion and welcome guests. You can raise your glass and say a few words to express your gratitude and joy at being here.
- Serving dishes: In general, Lithuanian dishes are often served as family dishes rather than individually. The various dishes are placed in the centre of the table, and the guests help themselves from there. It is common to share food and taste a little of everything.
- Respect for elders: In Lithuania, there is a strong culture of respect for elders. It is customary to let elders or guests of honour serve themselves first. Wait for the other guests to start eating before starting yourself.
- Bon appétit: Before starting to eat, it is customary to say “Skanaus” (bon appétit). This is a polite way of wishing everyone a good meal.
- Lively conversation: Lithuanian meals are often accompanied by lively discussion and laughter. You can expect guests to share stories, anecdotes and jokes throughout the meal.
- Respect for food: In Lithuania, food waste is generally frowned upon. It is preferable to take reasonable portions and to finish your plate. If you do not wish to eat certain foods, it is polite to simply explain that you are full or that you have specific food preferences.
- Ending the meal: Once everyone has finished eating, it is customary to thank the hosts for the meal by saying “Ačiū” (thank you). You can also offer to help clear the table, although this may be politely declined.
These are generally the social codes and traditions observed during a traditional meal in Lithuania. However, it is important to note that practices may vary slightly depending on the region and specific circumstances.
Lithuania’s culinary specialities and typical dishes
Of course you can! Lithuania has some interesting culinary specialities. Here are just a few of them:
- Cepelinai: These are large potato gnocchi stuffed with minced meat or cheese. They are often served with a sour cream sauce and bacon.
- Kugelis: This is a dish of grated potatoes mixed with eggs, onion and bacon. The mixture is then baked in the oven until golden and crispy.
- Skilandis: This is a smoked pork sausage made from minced pork mixed with garlic and spices. It is then smoked and dried, giving it a unique flavour.
- Kibinai: These are small turnovers filled with mutton or beef, onions and spices. They are often served hot and can be accompanied by a sour cream sauce.
- Saltibarsciai: This is a cold soup made with beetroot, cucumber, fermented milk and dill. It is refreshing and popular during the summer months.
- Šakotis: This is a traditional Lithuanian cake in the shape of a fir tree. It is prepared by slowly pouring cake batter onto a rotating spit placed over a fire. The cake then cooks, forming many golden layers.
An interesting and rather unique culinary tradition in Lithuania is that of “Kūčios” (pronounced koo-chos). Kūčios is a special meal that is traditionally prepared and eaten during the Christmas season in Lithuania, on the evening of 24 December.
This meal is significant because it is based on ancient and religious traditions. Here are some of the things that make Kūčios particularly remarkable:
- Lean meal: Kūčios is a lean, meatless meal consisting of a variety of dishes based on plant products. It usually consists of 12 different dishes, in reference to the 12 apostles of Jesus. Dishes may include peas, dried mushrooms, pickled vegetables, potatoes, beans, cereals, berries and black bread.
- Preparation ceremony: the preparation of Kūčios is considered a special ceremony. Family members come together to help prepare the dishes. Each person has an assigned task, which reinforces the sense of community and sharing.
- Table ritual: Before the meal begins, a series of rituals is observed around the table. A straw is laid on the table, symbolising the presence of the Christ child. A candle is lit and placed on the table to represent the light of Christmas. Family members hold hands and say a prayer before beginning the meal.
- Respect for customs: During Kūčios, it is considered impolite to get up from the table or leave the room. Participants should remain seated and enjoy the meal in a traditional manner.
- Symbolism and sharing: each dish of Kūčios has a particular symbolism. For example, potatoes represent fertility, peas symbolise prosperity and dried mushrooms evoke nature and abundance. The dishes are shared between guests to promote sharing and conviviality.
Kūčios is a culinary tradition with deep cultural and spiritual significance in Lithuania. It is a meal that brings families together, perpetuates ancient customs and celebrates the spirit of Christmas.
These are just a few examples of Lithuania’s culinary specialities. The country has a rich gastronomic tradition with many dishes to discover. The gastronomy of the Baltic States is very different from that of the western countries: International Horizons invites you to discover it through the culinary specialities of Estonia and Latvia. Ready for your work placement in Lithuania? So are we. All you have to do is contact us, and the International Horizons team will take you from France to Vilnius or Kaunas for an enriching experience.
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