Eat in Ukraine: The 10 tastiest Ukrainian dishes

May 3, 2019
Ukrainian food is delicious but still not well-known around the world. Here is a brief overview of the 10 most outstanding Ukrainian dishes.

In 2016 according to Yonderbound, one of the largest travel communities in the world, Ukrainian cuisine hit the top 10 in the world, finding itself in 8th place, between Japan and China. Tourists from all over the world participated in the voting. They appreciated the taste of food and its exceptional nutritional value. Important trade routes have historically stretched across Ukrainian territory, and dozens of ethnic groups lived there side-by-side, each of them bringing something unique to the local food culture. As a result, the latter turned out to be multifaceted, but with its nationwide characteristics. So, what are the national dishes of Ukraine?

1. Borshch

If you ask any Ukrainian to name a few traditional dishes, then this list will certainly include borshch. In Yonderbound's global rankings, borshch was defined as "soup made from meat, beetroot and everything that is in the refrigerator". That is because there are more than 70 recipes for red borshch. Locals have traditionally made it using kvass made from beet, diluted with water, and then added beet, cabbage, potatoes, onions and carrots. Modern hostesses have replaced beet kvass as a dressing for borshch with tomato paste. It came into use at the beginning of the twentieth century, when American tomatoes were no longer considered 'exotic' in Ukraine.

The classic version is made with pork, veal or chicken broth, and a reference for rich borshch is such "that your spoon would stand up in it"; However, the lean version is also common: with mushrooms or string beans. In some regions, fish is also used instead of meat. Moreover, in Zhytomyr Region, for example, you can try borshchcontaining dried fruit. In Ukraine, it is customary to serve such a dish with a spoon of sour cream and fragrant buns called 'pampushky', grated with garlic. Ukrainians love this dish so much that they even named a small town in Ternopil Region in honour of it. Now it hosts an annual borshch festival.

2. Varenyky

Ukrainian cuisine is rich in flour products, which has been prompted by the prevalence of wheat and other cereals here. Varenyky are especially popular in Ukraine: dough in the form of crescents with a salty or sweet filling. Most often, salted ones are made with potatoes, mushrooms, stewed cabbage or meat. Among the sweet fillings, cottage cheese, poppy, fruit and berries are especially popular. Interestingly, the name of the dish came from the Ukrainian word "varyty", which means "to boil". Varenyky are traditionally included in the list of twelve lenten dishes that are prepared in Ukrainian families for Holy Christmas Eve. In the West of Ukraine, the recipe of "love varenyky" is preserved: they are in the shape of a heart and pink in color, due to the addition of beet juice to the dough.

Varenyky occupy a special place in Ukrainian folk songs, as well as in literature. For example, one critic counted as many as 86 mentions of this dish in Mykola Gogol`s writings. What is more, in Canada, the varenyk was even immortalized in stone, when a 9-meter monument was hoisted there in his honor.

3. Holubtsi

Holubtsi is another dish that is traditionally prepared not only for Holy Christmas Eve, but also on an everyday basis. A mix of millet (now it's replaced by rice), meat, finely chopped carrots and onions with spices is wrapped in cabbage leaves and boiled. Like other Ukrainian dishes, holubtsi are traditionally served with sour cream. A similar course called Dolma is also popular in the South of the country. This dish differs from holubtsi only in that the filling is wrapped in grape leaves, which gives it a slightly sour taste.

4. Kholodets

Most holidays in Ukraine cannot do without kholodets. That is the name locals give to an aspic appetizer made of different types of meat. Pork, veal, chicken, or another bird on the bone will be suitable for cooking. Especially prized is kholodets from a rooster. It takes at least 4 hours to boil it, after which the meat is laid out on plates, carrots, garlic and other spices are added. Afterward you pour the resulting broth and leave it in a cool place so that it transforms into jelly. It should be noted that gelatin is not added to this dish. Serve it with spicy horseradish sauce or with mustard.

Kholodets is not only tasty, but also good for one's health, especially while treating illnesses of the joints or recovering from injuries. It also helps with tuberculosis, bronchitis and, because of glycine in the composition, it even helps prolonged depression. However, too much of a good thing is good for nothing. Remember that you should consume it in moderation, since this dish is rather greasy because of the fat.

5. Deruny

Ukrainians are also passionate about deruny. These are lush potato pancakes cooked with onions, eggs and garlic. Mushrooms or minced meat are oftentimes placed inside. This recipe is especially widespread in areas bordering Belarus, where the potato holds a special place. Therefore, for example, in the town of Korosten, Zhytomyr Region, the annual International deruny festival is held, and the local community has even erected a monument of their favorite dish.

6. Forshmak

The country's significant Jewish diaspora has also influenced national cuisine. For this reason, the list of traditional dishes expanded with the inclusion of forshmak. In essence, this is a fish paste made of salted herring, eggs, apples and onions. Forshmak is definitely served with croutons from black bread, most often triangular shaped. In Odesa, which is considered the 'capital' of this dish in Ukraine, herring is sometimes replaced with sprats.

7. Halushki

If the fish dishes heartland of Ukraine is regarded as being the seaside city of Odesa, then the centre of this one, despite its prevalence throughout the whole territory, is rightfully Poltava Region. Halushki are small pieces of dough, round or rectangular, cooked in water or milk. A feature that sets them apart from varenyky is the absence of any filling. However, before serving, they are generously sprinkled with grilled pieces of lard or onion, or they are just added to soup. In Poltava, locals continued the tradition of perpetuating their favorite dish in stone - that is how a monument in the form of a huge plate with seventeen dumplings appeared.

8. Banosz

When you come across the cuisine of Hutsuls, who are an ethnic group of Ukrainians living in in the region of the Carpathian Mountains, you should definitely try banosz. That is what they call a thick porridge made of corn flour and boiled in cream or sour cream. It is always sprinkled with brynza (a type of sheep milk cheese) and roasted bacon. Sometimes banosz is mistaken for the Romanian and Moldavian dish Mamalyha, but the latter is boiled solely in water. It is believed that the preparation of banosz is an exclusively male business, and the son who receives the recipe from his father should certainly add something of his own. In addition, the Hutsuls say that real banosz should only be cooked in a cauldron on an open fire and you can stir it only with a wooden ladle.

9. Bograch

Turning around the Carpathian Mountains, we find ourselves in Zakarpattia, the hallmark of which is considered to be Bograch. This is goulash made of three types of meat, which is seasoned with Carpathian herbs and Magyar (Hungarian) paprika. It is believed that the appearance of this dish was significantly influenced by the nomadic tribes of the Finno-Ugrians, who brought it with them to this land. Even the name "bograch" is Hungarian and means 'cauldron'. Therefore, just like banosz, bograch is traditionally cooked in an open area in a cauldron.

10. Lviv Syrnik (Cheesecake)

For dessert, as should be the case, what remains now is a Ukrainian treat called Lviv Syrnik. However, not to be confused with traditional cheese pancakes or casserole, even though they are all made from cottage cheese. Pastry chef Dariya Tsvek invented the recipe for this dish, and her cookbook containing it has already been reprinted nine times. Now there are more than 30 variations of syrniks: with raisins, dried apricots, chocolate, poppy seeds, orange peel and so on. Only fatty cottage cheese and homemade eggs, as well as good butter, remain unchanged. Because of this, the dessert is very tender and practically melts in the mouth.

Veronika Gurina
for UkraineWorld