Latvian food Pt 1 – The Supermarket

Despite a 7 year association with Latvia every time I travel to Latvia one thing that can always be guaranteed are new food discoveries as well as being reunited with some old favourites. Food is very important here and the making of it an equally social occasion as eating it.

Within minutes of arrival we were off to the local supermarket (Maxima) to get general provisions. I always enjoy supermarket shopping here rather than the mundaneness of it in the UK. 3 reasons for this 1 Spotting UK brands pushing their way overseas. Secondly spotting obscure new products with weird brand names is a little bit of fun.  A cereal bar called ‘Corny’ and a calming powder drink ironically called ‘Kama’ amongst my finds this year.

Thirdly and most enjoyable is of course looking at the different range of veg, fruit & meats that are available. Also something that must be highlighted although not amongst my favourites are the wide range of chilled salads (see picture) that put our humble potato salad to shame.

For carnivores the cooked meat counter is a ‘died & gone to heaven’ affair with smoked meats galore and a much darker variety which translates as ‘home smoked’. Most of the smoked meat was pork but smoked chicken is really popular in Latvia and cheap. I really don’t know why smoked meats are not more popular in the UK?

Salami meatsThe salami section is a must browse aisle for me and I picked up a lovely deer salami and some sliced peppered salami from the delicatessen counter together with some light smoked pork ‘karbonade’ as it’s locally called but I guess we would call it loin. Hams are non existent in Latvia

Unlike most Brits the Lats are rather patriotic about their products and will normally by locally produced products over and above stuff brought in and even seek out local regional produce. This is particularly so with meats, milk products and fruit & veg.  Price is a real issue for many people here with the average wage around £400 pcm  it doesn’t stop them supporting locally produced food and what’s more the supermarkets have to stock it (as well as foreign imports). Food markets are still widely used and most veg is seasonal with foraged goods available as and when pickable.

Fish for sale in a tankYou can buy live fish from the supermarket and they kill them there and then and sling them in a bag. Latvians eat all fish and I mean ALL fresh and sea. Carp (seen in the photo) are very popular as is salmon. Pike is also a popular local delicacy if it can be caught. Fish don’t get to grow so big here as you can imagine. During winter fishermen take to the frozen lakes and drill holes to catch a few tidlers!

Latvian fruit teasAnother really popular aisle that overshadows any in our own supermarkets is the tea aisle. Well really it’s mostly fruit teas, herb teas etc. Black tea is drunk here but it’s not as popular as fruit teas. Many Latvians still pick all their own flowers to make their own fruit teas.

There are local markets but they weren’t open when we arrived. Riga, the capital city, has 4 large ex zeppelin sheds now converted into market halls each with its own speciality namely fish, meat, fruit & veg and general groceries (but mostly bread, biscuits & confectionary).

In part 2 I’ll look more at home foods and the foody things we got up to including the potato harvest and foraging out in the forest.

You comments are really welcomed please do leave them below.


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