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12 Traditional Ukrainian Dishes You Must Try - Culture Trip
What best Ukraine traditional foods do you know? Is it the borshch that first pops up in your head? No doubt, it is the main representative of Ukrainian culinary talents abroad, beside pierogi or varenyky, as they are called here, and vodka or horilka.
However, Ukrainian cuisine extends much farther than that! You won’t find the scrumptious gems in most restaurants or cafes. Ukraine’s top secret foods are best cooked at home, by the hard-working hands of our babusya (more commonly known as babushka), and in the welcoming guesthouses of rural Ukraine.
We absolutely have to start with borshch! There is a scary saying, speculating that no Ukrainian girl will be able to get married, if she does not know how to prepare borshch. And oh my – we all make sure we do!
This traditional soup, made out of beet root and up to 20 other ingredients, is a staple dish in every Ukrainian family. We love our borshch with all the depth of our Ukrainian hearts – hot and cold, fresh and stale, for lunch or for breakfast, as a meal or even as a healing medicine against the winter colds. Every housewife has its own secret version of borshch, and no restaurant trial can ever compete with the real, steaming hot home-made borshch.
Traditionally borshch recipe is a basic stir-fry of grated beet root with tomatoes, added to a generous soup of vegetables – onions, carrots, fresh or pickled cabbage, peppers, and whatever else is available from our house garden. For the true state-of-art samples of this dish you have to head to the hidden-away villages of Carpathian Mountains, where borshch is cooked not on the gas stove, but is left to simmer for hours in the coziness of wooden oven. Pour it in the clay pot, drip in a spoon of fresh sour cream, snack up on a garlic-sprinkled pampushky and you’ll be able to understand what the true Ukrainian heaven looks like!
Just like borshch, traditional dumplings spearheaded the voyage of Ukrainian cuisine across the globe. Quite a common site in many supermarkets, varenyky or more commonly known as pierogisare what bread is to most other nations. Combined with the piping-hot plate of borshch, those two are Ukrainians’ food of choice in sickness and in health.
Conveniently varenyky can be made out of the cheapest ingredients available. Dough is a simple mix of flour, water and salt. And stuffing can be anything: from mashed potatoes with mushrooms and fried onions, pickled cabbage, minced meat and even cherries! The sweet version of varenyky is usually served with sour cream and honey, and is a tasty and healthy substitute for the calorie-counting sweets lovers.
3. BANOSH WITH BRYNZA
The highlands of Carpathian Mountains and the far-away areas of Transcarpathia are revered to as the kingdom of Ukraine’s most luscious dishes. Bordering with no less than 4 countries (Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova), Carpathian cuisine brings together the best tastes of each land. However, region’s most famous contribution to Ukrainian menu is banosh.
This traditional food of highland shepherds is essentially corn flour, cooked in sour cream, with the tasty additions of brynza – local salty sheep cheese, wild white mushrooms (preferably hand-picked from the nearest forest!) and shkvarky (scrunchy bits of pork fat). Those, caring about the calories, can easily omit the last one. The true banosh is cooked on fire, thousands of meters above the sea level in the midst of impressive Carpathian peaks and flourishing valleys, and always by men.
Uzvar is traditional Ukrainian drink of choice! It’s typically served during Christmas Dinner, and is regularly cooked in the local households. This refreshing beverage is actually a compote, made out of dried fruits. Most popular ingredients are dried apples, pears and apricots, with some grandmas adding prunes, raising and honey to sweeten the already savory drink.
5. Chicken Kiev
Chicken Kiev is the dish that has brought fame to Ukraine. The simple combination of fresh chicken filet with a piece of butter is considered to be quite exquisite all over the world. To ensure that butter does not flow during the frying, you’ll need a lot of practice and true professionalism. Nowadays, chicken Kiev is served in fashionable restaurants across London and New York. It is always the first dish ordered by foodies visiting the Ukrainian capital.
Draniki, or potato pancakes, are a perfect course for breakfast or dinner. They are usually freshly fried or baked. If you want to make a good batch of deruny, first off, you should make sure the potatoes are finely grated. Then, to diversify the flavor, add meat, slices of chopped onions, mushrooms, fresh herbs or a variety of spices. Alternatively, you could just keep it simple: potatoes and a pinch of salt.
It has already become a source of humor: Ukrainians love salo. This well-established symbol of hospitality and wealth is usually served as an appetizer—but sometimes a fully fledged dish. Pork fat is reportedly a source of vitamin D and A, both of which foster brain activity, digestion and detoxification. Put it on rye bread with spices or greens and have yourself a surprisingly healthy snack.
Traditional stuffed cabbage rolls, golubtsi, take many hours to prepare properly. There are two ways to make them: bake them in the oven or stew them in a pan. Minced meat with rice wrapped in cabbage leaf requires fine culinary skills and passion. Otherwise, the form and the taste of the rolls will suffer. Golubtsi is a good choice for dinner—top with some sour cream to give it ever more gusto.
Another nourishing recipe, the filling for which can be chosen randomly. Anything that can be wrapped in a pancake can be put inside nalisniki—but the traditional filling is cottage cheese and raisins. The secret to perfecting this dish is cooking it slowly on a low fire. Nalisniki could be mistaken for pancakes, but the difference is that Ukrainian versions are thinner, meaning your filling will dominate the taste. Tourists with a sweet tooth can add jam and sugar.
10. Homemade sausages
Homemade sausages consist of meat, fat, and spices, in a natural shell. The dish exceeds any store-bought sausage, in composition and quality. Most of the Ukrainian housewives know their own secret recipe and find it easy to cook. Mince pork or beef meat, add some garlic, wrap and bake. Then, the sausages can be frozen and later fried, baked, grilled or simply boiled as a side to vareniki or banush.
This strange dish shocks tourists. But, for Ukrainians, it is the central dish served at all celebrations. Holodets is made of meat broth, frozen to a jelly-like state, with pieces of meat inside. One of the main components for this kind of aspic is pork leg. To be more specific, the lowest part, the one that ends with hoofs. During the process of cooking, the smell spreads all over the apartment. But the result is so satisfying that it is worth it.
Fans of sweet flavors for breakfast will fall in love with syrniki. Made of cottage cheese, flour, eggs and sugar, the dish is nourishing and airy. After being gently fried in a pan, syrniki is topped with jam and sour cream. It literally melts in the mouth and will fast become your favorite dish. Despite the simplicity of ingredients, making syrniki is a very exacting process. The most important thing to consider is proportions—make sure you stick to the recipe.