Any acquaintance with a new culture starts with basics: language, facts about the country, history, and, of course, national cuisine. It is true to say that every country prides themselves with their cuisine, even more so when some of the dishes go beyond its borders and become internationally popular. Ukraine is no exception to the case, that’s why Destinations picked 10 best traditional Ukrainian dishes to get acquainted with.
Borshch with pampushky
To start with the classics, the most well-known and symbolical traditional food in Ukraine is, of course, borshch — a vegetable soup, made of beetroot, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes and dill. Sometimes, meat or fish is added into the dish. Borshch has been one of the main dishes on Ukrainian table way back since the 14th century, so it’s no wonder there are more than 30 variations of its recipe. Apart from the classical “red” borshch, in which beetroot gives its recognizable color, many Ukrainians also love “green” borshch, where the main component is sorrel leaves. It is often served in summer and considered the ‘light’ dish. Red borshch is traditionally served with pampushky — small, fluffy buns often sprinkled with garlic and dill. Flaky dough with sweet taste helps to enhance the taste of borshch.
Another popular dish, varenyky are Ukrainian dumplings with a variety of fillings, from sweet to sour. Each Ukrainian mistress has her own recipe of varenyky, but the preparation method stays the same: wrapping unleavened dough around the filling. The most ‘basic’ filling is boiled potatoes — this way varenyky are a pretty simple, yet delicious savory dish, often sprinkled with dill. Other savory fillings include pickled cabbage, salty cheese, boiled mushrooms, as well as meat, liver, or fish. The most popular sweet filling, without a doubt, is cherry, which makes sweet varenyky a perfect summer dish. Even Nikolai Gogol wrote about the dish, saving a useful tip throughout the centuries: don’t forget to serve sour cream and dip varenyky in it before eating.
One of the traditional dishes in Ukraine, Chicken Kyiv (originally called “Kotleta po-kyivsky”) has a long history. According to one theory, recipe was invented by French chefs, who lived on the territory of the Russian Empire during the 19th century. Historians state that Chicken Kyiv first appeared in the capital of Ukraine in 1918, during the reign of Pavlo Skoropadskiy. Nevertheless, fried chicken fillet, stuffed with herbs and coated with bread crumbs and eggs, gained its true popularity in a post-WII era; and it hasn’t left the menus of Ukrainian cuisine restaurants ever since.
Read: Kyiv Perepichka - Food Attraction of Kyiv
Deruny, or potato pancakes, are incredibly popular in Northern and Western regions of Ukraine. The name derives from the way of cooking: verb ‘derty’ means ‘to strip’ or ‘to skin’, which is exactly what Ukrainians do with potatoes to prepare this dish. The recipes are passed from generation to generation and include various ingredients. The most popular way is to add onion and egg to the grated potatoes, and then fry it in the form of small pancakes. Deruny are usually served with sour cream, sometimes with adding garlic. In Ukraine, this dish was traditionally served on Sundays as breakfast or dinner.
Yet another symbolic traditional Ukrainian dish, salo is cold, white pork fat, which can have skin left on the top or be served without it. Due to its incredibly nourishing qualities, as well as easy preservation, salo has been extremely popular throughout Ukrainian history. It can be consumed solely as an appetizer, or placed on bread, sprinkled with garlic and side-dished with pickled vegetables. Horilka, traditional Ukrainian alcoholic beverage, is the best drink to top salo. By the way, an incredibly popular dessert — salo in cholocate — chocolate sweets with smoled salo, butter and often liquor, is almost impossible to buy in the shops nowadays. There are couple of places in Kyiv or Lviv that still preserve this tradition.
Often called a Ukrainian analogue of cheesecake, syrnyky are roasted pancakes, made of home cheese, flour, eggs as well as salt and sugar. Known since the 18th century and popular in all regions of Ukraine, syrnyky can be both sour and sweet, depending on the serving. For sour syrnyky, Ukrainians usually add more salt in the mix and serve them with sour cream. The sweet ones can be topped with sugar powder, honey, and various jams. Due to their popularity, syrnyky are often served in cafes and restaurants for breakfast, or as dessert.
One of the best examples of Ukrainian traditional food, nalysnyky are sometimes overlooked or lost in the shadow of other popular dishes. Nevertheless, if you open a fridge of an average Ukrainian, you might see these intriguing rolls. The dish is essentially rolled thin crêpes with cottage cheese, which can be left sweet or mixed with dill to become savory. The other popular fillings include cabbage, mushrooms, caviar, and berries, but cottage cheese stays the classical one throughout centuries.
Read: Where to Taste Traditional Ukrainian «Nalyvka» in Kyiv
Also called zavyvantsi, kruchenyky are one of the best Ukrainian Hutsul dishes that come from Volyn’ region. These are meat rolls stuffed with minced meat, pate, and prunes with nuts. As always, every village and house had their own version of the recipe, but usually meat used for kruchenyky is pork, accompanied by mushrooms. Turkey, chicken, beef, and even liver are also used up to the chef’s taste. Kruchenyky are incredibly nourishing and can be served as a main dish.
An incredibly popular dish of Western Ukraine, banusz or banosz is a stew from cornmeal with sour cream, pork rind, mushrooms and savory cheese. The meal was typically served in the region for guests during various holidays, and up to this day is beloved by hundreds of tourists who visit Carpathians in any time of the year.
One of the 12 traditional Ukrainian Christmas dishes, kutia historically became the main dish associated with Christmas time in Ukraine. It is the first of 12 dishes that are to be tasted on Sviat Vechir (Christmas Eve), and has to be tasted by every guest in the house. The recipe is known from the ancient times, and hasn’t changed much since: wheat or barley grains were processed in stupa (mortar), then crushed poppy seeds, walnuts and steamed raisins were added to the mix. It was then boiled in a clay pot. According to tradition, on this day kids, preferably young boys, brought kutia to the table. They also served other dishes to their elderly relatives.
Read: Ukrainian Traditional Dishes for Christmas Table
Ukrainian traditional cuisine varies from region to region, and from host to host, but all dishes possess irreplaceable qualities — deliciousness and love.
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