Riga Central Market & Cooking Burgers
Next on the list for my journey through the Baltics was Riga. Many people I met during my time in Tallinn, Estonia highly recommended this city for its affordable food and hostels, as well as the well known Riga Central Market. I was excited to explore all of these things and Riga did not disappoint.
One of the first things I noticed when walking the city were there many beautiful parks. Whether you would like to canoe, walk or just sit and enjoy the view, I highly recommend checking them out. If you visit during the summer months, you can even have a picnic with food from the Riga Central Market!
Also, take some time to explore some of Riga’s beautiful architecture, such as the Blackheads House and the Old City. For some quirkier options, or if you happen to travel to Riga by bus, you can see some Soviet-era buildings including the Riga TV Tower modeled after the Eiffel Tower and their Academy of Sciences modeled after the Empire State Building.
Riga Central Market – Pragas Str. 1, Riga
Covering more than 237,000 sq. feet (72,300 sq. meters) and hosting 3,000 trade vendors of varying sizes, Riga’s Central Market has much to offer visitors and locals alike.
Vendors sell fresh, local products from Latvian farms such as:
- Chicken, Beef, Pork & Lamb
- Dairy such as milk, yogurt and a wide variety of cheeses
- Vegetables of all types
- Honey, syrup and marmalade
- Fresh and dried mushrooms
- Groceries found in typical grocery stores
- Manufactured goods
- Knitwear and other handmade goods
- Seasonal products
Like many markets, they had somewhat segregated areas for each type of meat, as well as for fish. Fresh produce was in another area, as were general groceries, etc. We decided that we would cook burgers together in our hostel. Our primary goal was to locate hamburger/mince, bacon, cheese, onion, garlic and fresh bread. Our second goal was to try the many local deli meats, cheeses and fresh fruits and vegetables. We would then buy some of our favorites to snack on as we walked through the market for what turned out to be several hours.
We sampled many incredible fruits and nuts but our favorite that day were the cherries. We also had an opportunity to try a number of tasty local deli meats and cheeses. The Gouda was particularly good and we decided that would be included in our burgers for dinner that evening.
Riga Central Market has something to offer everyone and is definitely worth spending some time in. Whether you plan to cook, sample local ingredients, purchase street food to eat as you walk or just do some shopping, you won’t be disappointed.
The market is open daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. May through September and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. October through April.
For a complete list of their selections, including all their seasonal products, click here.
Cooking Burgers at the Hostel
As we arrived at the hostel after a few hours of gathering our ingredients at the Central Market, our mission was to cook burgers for 6 people. The beautiful Elin Nyqvist from travel blog ElinReser.se graciously offered to help me prep and cook everything. We made a great team in the small space we had available. Fortunately, the hostel also had some seasoning and condiments available so we didn’t have to but all of those items as well. For 6 people, the burger ingredients cost us just under $20 total.
- 2 pounds ground/minced beef
- 1 pound medium to thick-cut bacon
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2-3 cloves of garlic (or substitute garlic paste)
- 1 pound Gouda, Swiss or Cheddar cheese
- 1-2 loaves fresh baked bread, cut into 6 burger buns
- 1 head of lettuce
- 1 large tomato
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- Salt & pepper to taste
Prepping the Ingredients:
Here is how we prepared burgers for the evening. For a healthier option, feel free to substitute olive oil in place of the bacon fat. This took the two of us about an hour working together but we had limited counter space.
- Cut the onion in half. Dice the first half of the onion to mix with the meat. Cut the second half into thin strips and reserve to use for burger toppings.
- Dice the garlic.
- Put the ground/minced meat into a bowl. Spread the beef out in the bowl and then sprinkle half of the garlic powder, paprika and a dash of salt and pepper evenly. Then add the diced onions and garlic on top.
- Using one hand to hold the bowl, use the other hand to mix the beef, seasoning, onion and garlic for 1-2 minutes.
- Shape the hamburger into 6 equal balls. On a cutting board, press the hamburger balls with your palm into patties, making sure to also use your other hand to keep them in patty shape and not allowing them to split or separate.
- Place a saute pan on the stove top and turn the burner to medium. Once hot, add the bacon one half pound or less at a time. Cook the bacon to desired preference and reserve on a plate lined with a paper towel. Remove the saute pan from heat but do not discard the bacon fat.
- After the pan has cooled down, use a large spoon to scoop half of the bacon fat into a bowl and reserve.
- Leaving the remaining half of bacon fat in the saute pan, place the pan back on the burner turned to medium.
- Once hot, add 3 burger patties to the saute pan, taking care not to splash the bacon fat. Cook for 4-6 minutes on first side based on desired temperature. Flip patties and cook to desired preference on other side. Remove and place on a plate. If desired, place bacon and/or cheese on patties at this time.
- Repeat with remaining 3 burger patties.
- While patties are cooking, slice bread and toast lightly if desired in the oven with a little butter or live oil at 300 degree F. For added flavor, you can also add some additional diced garlic or garlic powder and paprika to the bread, prior to placing it in the oven.
- Rinse and cut tomatoes and lettuce for toppings.
- Once everything is ready, place all burgers on their buns.
- Add remaining onions, toppings and condiments as desired.
Our burgers were well received and everyone told us how much they enjoyed them. Perhaps one day I’ll attempt to match the incredible Overload Surf & Turf Burger back in Copenhagen, which still remains my favorite.
We spent more time than we planned on at the Riga Central Market due to how much there was to see and taste. We had a great time shopping and easily could have spent more time there the next day as well.
The preparation of the food was fun and I enjoyed having an opportunity to get in a kitchen again while traveling. Based solely on Riga Central Market, this is a great city in which to cook. The recipe I included should work anywhere though as the ingredients are widely available. If you have an opportunity to use it, please let me know what you think below.
Where to Stay? Naughty Squirrel Hostel provides an great location, large common area, bar and kitchen to cook some burgers for whatever else you would like to prepare from the market. This hostel provides pub crawls and great nightlife recommendations but also knows how to relax during the day. Be prepared to make many friends during your time here. They also have a very friendly staff and the most comfortable hostel beds I’ve slept on. Highly recommended.
Map of Market, Street Food & Naughty Squirrel Hostel
Here I’ve included a map of Riga Central Market, my favorite street food and Naughty Squirrel Hostel.
- LiveRiga.lv:Riga’s city website that lists popular areas to visit, events, restaurants and more.
- Central Market Website: Main website for all additional information and questions you may have when visiting. Highly recommended.
Priekā! (Cheers in Latvian)
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