Top 10 Ukrainian dishes to try
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You’ve probably heard of chicken Kyiv and borscht, but what about varenyky or deruni? Ukrainian cuisine has had many influences over the centuries, whether that’s neighbouring countries, climate conditions or the rich dark soil (chernozem) which the country has so much of. As a result, vegetables grow abundantly here, and play an important role in the nation’s cuisine. Ukrainian dishes are generously flavoured, and often go through a complex heating process where they’re fried or boiled, then stewed or baked. Although a full list of dishes would be endless, here are the top 10 most popular Ukrainian dishes that you simply have to try.
Borscht is the national dish of Ukraine. Traditionally, this soup was made from 30 ingredients, but that has decreased over time. Today, it’s a comforting dish which is made with beetroot, meat or bone stock, and vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes and onions. The soup often includes fermented beetroot juice, giving the soup its distinctive red colour. Borscht is usually served with sour cream or yoghurt, as well as a garlic roll called pampushki. Ukrainians savour borscht on holidays, weekdays and even for funeral wakes.
Banosh is a regional dish, originating in the Carpathian Mountains of western Ukraine. This velvety corn porridge consists of corn flour cooked in sour cream, Bryndza cheese and fried pork fat, and sometimes with mushrooms for a richer taste. The dish is traditionally cooked over a fire which gives it a delicious smoky flavour. In the past, banosh was associated with the Hutsul minority where the men were in charge of preparing the dish. Today, it’s commonly consumed throughout Ukraine and found on menus in most traditional restaurants.
This traditional Easter bread is cooked in every Ukrainian kitchen before Easter and taken to church on Easter morning with other foods to be blessed. Tall and cylindrical in shape, paska is made with eggs and butter, and often enriched with citrus zest, vanilla, rum, ginger, saffron, raisins and candied fruit. Each paska varies depending on who’s making it—traditionally, it was decorated in religious symbols, but more modern versions are decorated with an egg-white glaze, poppy seeds, sprinkles and icing. The local belief is that the baker should whisper positive thoughts when working the dough to get the best results.
Kyiv cake, or Kyivski tort, is a traditional cake originating from Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. The cake consists of light sponge layers, a nutty meringue with hazelnuts, followed by a jam filling and buttercream-like frosting. The end result is a delicious cake with a crunchy and airy texture. The cake is typically sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts and left to cool before serving, with the cream developing a silky texture. This technique was developed back in the 1950s at the Karl Marx Confectionery Factory. It was such a big deal that it would be rude not to visit Kyiv and not bring back the cake as a souvenir for friends.
Originating from the region of Red Ruthenia in western Ukraine, Varenyky are a type of dumpling made from dough. These soft dumplings can be served boiled or fried, or even boiled before being fried until crispy. The fillings can vary depending on different regions of the country, or individual family traditions. Savoury varenyky are usually stuffed with potatoes, cheese, cabbage or mushrooms, before being served fried onions, cracklings, crispy fried onions, or bacon. A sweet dessert version also exists, and these are often filled with cherries, currants, and sour cream.
Holubtsi are Ukrainian style stuffed cabbages. Traditionally, boiled cabbage leaves are filled with boiled rice and meat, but variations of the dish call for mushrooms, Korean carrots and other cereals to substitute the rice or to make it vegetarian. Beet, lettuce, spinach or grape leaves can also be used in place of cabbage. Once filled and wrapped, the holubtsi are then braised in a liquid. This can vary by region and family, but usually includes broth, tomato juice and sour cream. The holubtsi are then garnished with dill to serve.
Kyiv, as the name suggests). This dish has become popular all around the world thanks to its simple yet satisfying flavour. You can even find it in high-end restaurants in London. Chicken Kyiv consists of a chicken fillet that is wrapped around herb butter, before being breaded and fried. To make sure the butter doesn’t flow out during cooking requires a lot of practice. Chicken Kyiv is a favourite in restaurants, canteens and schools all around Kyiv and Ukraine, and is a must-try when visiting the city.
Deruni, or potato pancakes, are particularly popular in northern Ukraine. They’re perfect for breakfast or brunch (or whenever takes your fancy) and are usually freshly fried or baked. A good deruni consists of finely grated potatoes, meat, chopped onions, mushrooms, fresh herbs and a variety of spices. Deruni are usually served with sour cream or baked yoghurt, but you can also enjoy them as a sweet dish served with applesauce or a sugar topping.
Nalysnyky is another tasty breakfast or dessert dish. These thin pancakes or crepes are traditionally made from buckwheat flour or cornmeal and are the most popular dish for Shrovetide. They’re made very thin so that the stuffing dominates the taste. And when it comes to stuffings, anything that can be wrapped in a pancake can be used—whether it’s a savoury fried mushroom filling, or a sweet version with cottage cheese, raisins and jam.
Okroshka is a cold soup which is popular during the summer months due to its lightness and refreshing taste. The classic ingredients include raw vegetables like radish, spring onions, cucumber and carrots, boiled potatoes, eggs, and cooked meat such as sausages, ham, beef or veal. The soup is usually made with kvass (a fermented, cereal-based beverage) or kefir, both of which are sour in taste. It’s then garnished with sour cream just before serving.