What is Ukrainian cuisine famous for?
Ukrainian cuisine is rich in traditions and characterized by various dishes and their high taste. Some recipes for cooking and methods of food preservation Ukrainians inherited from ancient times, and some recipes came from the cultures of neighboring countries. The development of the national cuisine was also determined by cross-cultural communication as Ukrainian lands are on the crossroad between East and West, North and South — so Ukraine not only shared its recipes but also adopted new ones. That’s why, in Ukraine, we have original cuisine created for centuries and millennia. The enormous variety of Ukrainian dishes has ensured their distribution far beyond Ukraine. The history of the Ukrainian cooking style can tell a lot about the peculiarities of its rituals. Many dishes were associated with solemn events and rituals: weddings, childbirth, funeral, etc. Dinners with a lot of guests are an attribute of almost all celebrations. Till now, people respect and adhere to culinary traditions, whether living in villages or cities of Ukraine.
Confirming that Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe, the variety of food has flour and cereals as the main ingredients… Ukrainian farmers believed that the tastiest bread is the one you make with your own hands. And for different occasions, there were different kinds of bread, for example, for significant and solemn holidays — pies with liver and meat were baked, and for the wedding — korovai — a festively decorated wedding bread.
As Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022, one bakery product became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. We are talking about Palyanitsa. The phonetic structure of this word makes it difficult for Russians to pronounce, so Ukrainians jokingly began to identify enemy agents by asking them to say “Palianytsia.” Ukrainian children still play with each other and test their ability to pronounce this word correctly.
The phenomenon of Ukrainian cuisine is that it is both united and regionally diverse. Throughout the territory, we have a fairly common set of food ingredients (pork, lard, beets, wheat flour, legumes, vegetable oil) and the way it is processed. Traditional Ukrainian dishes are mostly boiled, stewed, and baked because meals were mostly cooked in the oven. The most common ways to store food were pickling and souring. Among the most popular traditional dishes are salo, varenyky with different fillings, and borscht.
Salo is a Ukrainian delicacy made of cured pork fat having a cult-like status. It is consumed raw, salted, or smoked. It is served not only as an independent dish covered with onion, garlic, and pickles but also as a dessert when coated in chocolate.
In the past, salo was highly-valued for its long shelf life, i.e., suitable to save food for the future. In addition, it is good for health and prevents severe diseases like atherosclerosis. Just do not go overboard with the dosage of such medicine.
Varenyky is a famous Ukrainian dish made of boiled dough with various fillings, such as meat, mushrooms, vegetables, fruits, cheese, etc. Varenyky is not a festive dish, but its taste leaves no one indifferent. It can be the main course as well as the dessert. Their recipes vary greatly depending on the region.
Borscht is a specialty of Ukrainian cuisine, which is loved worldwide. The dish has dozens of varieties. The most common are red, green, mushroom, and cold borscht. Ingredients for borscht vary greatly depending on the region of Ukraine. For example, in Podilia beans are added to the dish, in Poltava region — galushky (small boiled dumplings), in the South — flour, and in Slobozhanshchyna (eastern part of Ukraine), borscht is cooked with beer. When you order borscht in a Ukrainian restaurant, it usually comes with sour cream and small garlic-flavored buns — pampushki.
Each ethnographic region of Ukraine has its own peculiarities of cuisine due to geographical conditions and national traditions. So, in the mountainous regions of the Carpathians, the dishes made of corn flour, mushrooms, and milk products prevail. In lowland areas, people cook dishes of wheat flour and various vegetables. In the cuisine of Polissia (the northern part of Ukraine covered with forests), in addition to cultivated vegetables, forest products (game, mushrooms, and berries) become food components, and the Ukrainian south is famous for its fish dishes.
There are many Ukrainian national drinks based on old folk recipes, like refreshing uzvar — boiled from dried fruit and compote — cooked from fresh fruit and berries.
Also, Ukraine is famous for various alcoholic beverages. For example, winemaking is widespread in such regions of Ukraine as Bessarabia, Transcarpathia, and the Black Sea coast. Telti Kuruk is a white grape variety that results in extremely potent wines with the aroma of white flowers and refreshing acidity. Odesa Black (a.k.a. Aliberne) is also called ‘mustang’ among red varieties. Owing to its rich color and riot of spices, wines from this variety have been repeatedly named ‘the future identity of Ukraine”. Sukholimansky is a white grape variety that results in refined aromatic wines, perfect for everyday drinking.
Moreover, various herbal and berry liqueurs, such as kalganivka, vyshnivka, and spotykach are popular. As for strong alcoholic drinks, traditional Ukrainian horilka made from wheat and sugar occupies the first place. Another option is mead — a drink that acquires hot properties due to the fermentation of water and honey.
While borscht and varenyky are some of the best-known Ukrainian dishes, local cuisine has much more to offer. Ukraine is the homeland of many world-famous and talented chefs of the new generation. Kyiv and Lviv are considered the best cities for food tours, where the eyes run wild from the number of restaurants with high-quality food and service.
After the full-scale invasion, some restaurants changed their format and started providing warm meals to the military and territorial defense forces, others were delivering food to people hiding in the bomb shelters and subway stations.
Despite heavy losses and constant shellings, Ukrainian cuisine is alive — it remains afloat, supporting the army and the Ukrainian economy.
Ukrainian cuisine has its history, it is rich and definitely worth your attention.