How to Defeat Winter Gloom? Instant Mood-Lift Dishes as Told by Lithuanians
Potato Dumplings, © Andrius Aleksandravičius
Comfort food has been a hot topic since the start of the pandemic and more obscure cuisines now have the chance to shine. Tradition-based Lithuanian comfort food might be a good way to try some feel-good dishes with unusual flavour combinations during the harsh winter quarantine season.
November 30, 2020. Global pandemic caught the world off guard, at the same time forcing people to seek out things that represent familiarity and security. That is why some are even proclaiming that2020 is the Renaissance of comfort food because of its ability to soothe the nerves and provide psychological comfort.
As cooking at home has become one of the outlets to release pent-up lockdown anxiety, old recipes might soon get boring and give way to new experiments in the kitchen. So there has never been a better time to see what other nations bring to the table as comfort food and get some ideas for future investigations in person once the traveling bans are lifted.
Lithuania might have one of the most unexplored cuisines in the world yet the flavours are familiar to almost everyone. This means one is likely to unveil some hidden comfort food treasures in the depths of traditional cuisine at the same time seeing old and known products in a new light.
7 Lithuanian Feel-Good Dishes Worth Trying Out
“For tourists, asking where the Lithuanian food comes from, I always say that the majority of the ingredients come from the province, yet Lithuanian culinary heritage is multicultural, as all nations that once resided in Lithuania contributed something of their own to the Lithuanian gastronomic peculiarities,” says Ieva Pikžirnytė, Lithuanian food guide, coffee and taste training expert.
Additions from foreign cuisines, such as Jewish, Polish, Ukrainian, Tartar, Russian, and Karaite, mixed with traditional flavours, make Lithuanian comfort food a pleasant discovery for travellers far away from home.
So what Lithuanian foods are all-time favourites by newcomers and Lithuanians themselves? “Tourists are usually most fascinated by our hash browns or stuffed cabbage. A lot depends on the season as well. For example, in cold weather they prefer mushroom soup and potato dumplings (cepelinai),” Pikžirnytė shares insights on tourist favourites. Here is a list of Lithuanian comfort dishes most liked by the locals and foreigners alike to pass the quarantine and winter with ease.
- Filling Potato Pie (Kugelis)
Those living for potatoes of all shapes and forms, might find themselves wanting to try some of the Lithuanian comfort dishes. As one of the main traditional ingredients, potatoes have ruled the Lithuanian cuisine for 150 years, and consequently have been ingrained in Lithuanian eating habits. There is hardly a family in Lithuania which does not have its own potato dish recipe traveling from one generation to another.
Potato pie or pudding (kugelis) is favoured by many for being easy to make, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
- Hearty Hash Browns (Bulviniai blynai)
Just like the majority of Lithuanian dishes, hash browns or potato pancakes (bulviniai blynai) contain lots of carbs, fat, and salt - all of the ingredients essential for unlocking the feeling of satisfaction in the brain which lies behind comfort food cravings. The recipe can be found here.
- Famous Potato Dumplings (Cepelinai)
When talking about the Lithuanian fascination with making potato dishes – sky’s the limit. The national celebrity – potato dumplings (cepelinai) – can be made with either usual fillings (meat, curd), or somewhat unexpected ingredients – apples, herring, sauerkraut. The potatoes themselves may be boiled, pan-fried, roasted, mashed, and so on and so forth. So for those who believe potatoes are the epitome of comfort food, Lithuanian cuisine is more than inviting. Here is a fairly easy recipe to make potato dumplings at home.
- Fast Fried Bread with Cheese (Kepta duona su sūriu)
Fried bread is practically the most popular snack in Lithuanian bars. Visitors fall in love with it instantly and call it a great snack to go with a pint of beer. This simple recipe requires only ingredients which can be found in basically everyone’s pantries: a loaf of rye bread, 1-2 cloves of garlic, some cooking oil, a pinch of salt, and cheese (optional but extremely recommended). Cut the bread in strips, fry them in oil until crispy, rub garlic onto the bread, sprinkle some salt, add grated cheese on top, and enjoy. Hot, filling, cheesy and garlicky – what else is there to wish?
- Savoury Pastry Pies (Kibinai)
Crescent-shaped pies of butter pastry stuffed with meat, mushrooms, or vegetables are one of the dishes brought to Lithuania by another nation – Karaites. Around 400 Karaite families were invited to Lithuania by Vytautas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, from the shores of Black Sea at the end of the 14th century, and those who have made Lithuania their home, added their national dishes to the Lithuanian cuisine, hence – the savoury pastry pies. The dish is best devoured in the historical capital of Lithuania – Trakai – where the variety of both savoury pastry pies and restaurants serving them is astounding. This recipe is a great way to pass time while planning a trip to try a Lithuanian spin on savoury pastry pies the following year.
- Delicious Cocoa Cookie Bar (Tinginys)
For foodies with a sweet tooth, Lithuanians suggest making another national treat. This uncooked cocoa cookie bar is called “lazy cake” by the locals since the recipe calls for minimal to none cooking skills. Just crush a pack of tea biscuits, melt 100 g of butter on medium heat, add a can of sweetened condensed milk and cocoa powder. Mix the ingredients, wrap the mixture in a cling film, shape it as a sausage, chill it in the fridge for several hours and voilà!
- Deep-Fried Pastry Strips (Žagarėliai)
Finally, twig-shaped and deep-fried pastry strips made with curd or sour milk in a way resemble donuts, so the familiarity makes it the ultimate Lithuanian comfort desert irresistible for all lovers of deep-fried food. This quick and easy recipe shows how to make mouth-watering deep-fried pastry strips.
Familiar and comforting flavours with some unusual twists represent a side of Lithuania that is sure to be explored by foodies in years to come. Meanwhile, all eager to experience Lithuanian gastronomic peculiarities can take a look at the Map of Authentic Lithuanian Flavours and make a list for their future explorations of Lithuania.
If you want to learn more about Lithuanian traditional cuisine, check out Lithuania Travel website.
About Lithuania Travel
Lithuania Travel is a national tourism development agency responsible for Lithuania’s tourism marketing and promotion, acting under the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. Its strategic goal—to raise awareness of Lithuania as an attractive tourism destination and to encourage inbound and domestic travel. The agency closely collaborates with tourism businesses and organizations, presents Lithuanian tourism products, services and experiences on social and digital media, press trips, in international travel exhibitions and B2B events.