I have some advice: Don’t holiday in Lithuania if you don’t like carbs, if you wince at the thought of loosening a belt buckle or if, for whatever reason, you don’t enjoy eating.
Over four days in Lithuania I sampled three hearty meals a day, always accompanied by locally brewed beer or the dangerously drinkable berry wine. On the first day I convinced myself I was walking it off, by the second day I was waddling slightly, by the third I had resorted to leaving my jean’s top button permanently undone.
There’s a strong Russian influence in Lithuanian cuisine and vegetables aren’t always on the menu. Mains consist of hearty stews, warming soups and potato in all its forms. These people it seems, can do anything with a potato. Herring, beetroot and sour cream (yes, sometimes on the plate together) are also prominent.
So if you’ve decided to give up on sightseeing for the remainder of a rainy day, embarking on a food-crawl is your next best bet:
The humble Kabinai has quite the history: Brought to Lithuania by the Karaite minority in the 13th century and traditionally made with pork or lamb, it now comes in many varieties.
Borsch (hot beetroot soup) is a Russian staple and is also on most Lithuanian menus. A modern twist is a cold, gazpacho style variety but I prefer it hot.
Diet alert: Don’t try to convince yourself that these fried potato pancakes filled with meat and doused in sour cream are healthy: they’re not! They are however, absolutely delicious and the perfect accompaniment to beer.
I have great respect for Lithuanian cuisine for one reason: Most menus have a whole section entitled ‘Beer Snacks’. this is one of the best: Pork crackling with split peas.
On my third evening I chose a healthier option: This pie made of herring and beetroot salad sounded strange but tasted great.
Before and after: the pie crumbled apart to reveal the most bizarre concoction of ingredients that somehow worked!
Tuna pancakes (believe it or not this is a half portion!) Modern chain restaurants in Vilnius offer decent quality food that’s even cheaper than the old town’s restaurants. Of course, sour cream makes an appearance again…
Chaika coffee house in Vilnius old town takes a bit of finding but its worth it. Decorated in soviet style, it has the widest selection of teas I’d ever seen. When you can’t fit any more food in, a liquid refreshment is the only option!