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    The smallest country in the world offers the heart of Catholicism and among the world's finest art collections, including the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms (ceiling pictured). Go to Vatican City!

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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Latvia

Culinary Influences

Latvian cuisine is based on animal products. Meats, dairy, eggs, and animal fats are commonly used and featured in most dishes. Additionally, the people historically integrated potatoes, wheat, and other heavy vegetables.

After falling under Polish and German control pork has been more significantly integrated into the Latvian diet. Today, little has changed in Latvian cuisine other than a few new ingredients and ingredient combinations. As communication and transportation channels have improved, new ethnic foods and restaurants have been introduced, but not yet in significant numbers.

Staple Foods

Beans: considered a staple and found in many dishes, especially traditional peasant dishes
Peas: like beans, not found in every dish, but a very common ingredient
Rupjmaize: a dark bread made from rye is commonly served with meals in Latvia

Regional Variations & Specialties

Grey Peas with Onions & Bacon: Latvia's national dish is fairly self-explanatory

Dining Etiquette

Latvia has its share of both Latvians and Russians, fortunately both have similar dining habits, although neither group will likely be dining with the other. If dining at a Russian's house, you may want to consult the Russian Food page for more details.

If dining at a Latvian's home, dress nicely, arrive on time, and bring a gift like chocolates, or better, something authentically from your home country. Once you arrive, remove your shoes at the door and get ready for the formalities.

When eating in Latvia, always error on the side of being more conservative and more formal. You will be shown a seat and are expected to eat with your knife in your right hand and fork in the left. Your napkin is meant to remain on the table where you found it, only being used to clean your mouth or plate. The host will take the first bite of food or will let you know when to begin.

As the meal comes to an end, finish all the food on your plate and get ready to sing, yes sing. You don't have to know the Latvian lyrics, but you are expected to partake in their traditions, one of which is to follow up a good authentic meal with a song.

If at a business dinner, don't discuss business. Meal time is meant to socialize and improve relations, not to close a deal or finalize details.

When eating at a sit down restaurant with a server, you should round up or tip about 10% of the bill. In bars a tip is appreciated but not necessary.

Drinks

Among the many local beverages, the most unique are birch juice and skabputra, which is a sour porridge beverage made from barley and milk. In addition to these, all common drinks like soft drinks, juices, coffee, and tea are available.

A fairly popular local alcoholic drink in Latvia is called maizes kvass, which is fermented from rye bread crusts. Beer is also popular, which can be served in various forms, some of which are made with honey. Imported beers, wines, and hard liquors are also widely available.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Latvia, but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: September, 2011