Latvian Supermarket: 10+ products you must try!
This is Adam here.
Now, whenever I travel abroad, one of my favorite things to do is to check out the supermarkets. Restaurants are always nice, but if you want to eat like a local, you take a visit to the grocery store. And in Riga, you’ll always make great and incredibly cheap finds.
Here are a few of my favorite things to buy, (from right to left in the photo):
1. Black Garlic Bread
Latvia is very well known for many types of black bread that you can get at and markets and stores. But one particular type of bread that I have not seen anywhere else in the world is their black bread - with garlic. Have it with butter, have it with cheese, make a sandwich with it, its richness is incomparable. Restaurants also sell this in pieces as an appetizer.
Price: 87¢ for 1 loaf
Prjaniki are a type of gingerbread-biscuit, similar to Lebkuchen in Germany, only this isn’t just deisgned for Christmas. However, Prjaniki have a sweeter taste to them, and are usually made with condensed milk, which is a very popular ingredient in the east. Dip it in some sour cream and you’ll have a sweet and refreshing snack.
3. Lāčplēsis beer
Lāčplēsis is perhaps the most popular beer in Latvia. It has a very slight sweetness to it, allowing it to be very refreshing. Its name, by the way, comes after the Latvian hero of legend by the same name, and literally means „bear-slayer”. His story is held as the Latvian national epic.
Price: 75¢ for 0,5 L
I know caviar is well known throughout the world, but the reason why I have it here is because Latvia is the perfect place to try it. Why? Well, check out the price:
Price: 1,25 € for 100g
Pielmeni is a common staple food in the Baltic and eastern Slavic countries and for good reason. These are rich and filling, quick to make, and are generally filled with pork, lamb, beef, or other meats. Add pepper, garlic, onions or spices, and then pour some sour cream over it, and you will be set for a very nice meal.
Price: 2,00 - 3,00 € for 1 kilo
Tarhun is a soft drink originally created, actually, in Georgia, made from the perennial plants woodruff or tarragon. If you’re familiar with Absinthe or green Berliner Weisse beer, these drinks are made from the same type of plant, Tarhun, however, being the only non-alcoholic drink of them. So as you can see, Tarhun is a very special regional drink with a ”flower flavor” that if you get the chance, you ought to try.
Price: 1,92 for 1L
Kvass is very common in many Slavic countries, and is essentially a soft drink made from black bread. It’s traditionally made fermented with alcohol, but the ones you find in the stores are more of a soda. There are many different Kvass brands, so trying each one is an adventure. My favorite brand is in the picture.
Price: 95¢ for 1,5 L
So off the bat you’re probably thinking “What’s so special about lemonade?” but the thing is, Latvian/Baltic limonāde isn’t really lemonade. I’d compare it to maybe a mix of ginger and caramel, or a sort of root beer flavor, but it is unique and delicious.
Price: 46¢ for 0,5 L
Buckwheat is a grain that’s popular all over Eastern Europe, and makes for an interesting substitute for rice and pasta. Boil it with sauteed beef and add some sour cream, or have it with milk for breakfast; either way, you have a great dish.
Price: ~2,00 € for 1 kilo
10. Semechki/Sunflower Seeds (unpictured)
Now you can get sunflower seeds in most places, but on this side of the globe, sunflower seeds are king. Salted or unsalted, they’re satisfying, filling, and have many servings per bag. You can find these easily in every grocery store, and the bags are almost always written in Cyrillic.
11. Condensed Milk (unpictured)
It is almost impossible to avoid the blue containers with “молоко” written on them. This is an incredibly sweet, syrup-esque milk that was originally made for the army, since it was difficult to give out a large amount of milk. Nowadays, people use it to make/pour on top of pancakes, or add it to coffee, or simply boil it for kids as a dessert. It’s used in many sweets, and to many, it is the taste of childhood.
Price: 3,00 € for 1 kg
12. Biezpiena Sieriņš/Syrok
Another dairy product here is called Biezpiean Sieriņš, or in Russian, Syrok. Usually from the brand “Karums”, this is a chocolate treat that puts all others to shame. All it is is curd cheese covered with chocolate and cooled, but as you will see, this combination is heavenly.
In Latvia, there are many different types of dairy products that aren’t as common in the West. One of these is Kefirs, which is essentially a milk fermented with a specific species of yeast. Alone it will just taste like flavorless yogurt, but add some honey and you have a great breakfast drink.
Price: 83¢ for 1 kilo
14. Sour Cream/Skābais Krējums
So as you can see by several of the other products, sour cream is a must-have in Latvia. There are so many foods you can use it with here, from dinners and lunches to deserts.
Price: 82¢ for 200g
15. Riga’s Black Balsam
Finally, we have Riga’s specialty: Black Balsam. This is a traditional herbal liqueur that dates back to the 18th century. It is often made with black currant, and is actually occasionally used in medicine. According to legend, when Catherine the Great came to Latvia, she became sick and was only cured after drinking the Black Balsam. Don’t let the ideas of medicine scare you away, though, it’s a great palette cleanser!
Price: 5,99 € for 0,35 L. Comes in different portions
As you can see, nearly all of the products you can get cost less than 1€. You eat well, and you eat cheap.
Of course, there are many other things to try: various different types of beer (all around less than 1€), the many other dairy products in Latvia, and all the meats and sausages you can get. Take a trip yourself and see what you can find!
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