Ukrainian Traditional Food: Tasty, Fun, with a Twinkle!

Superb Ukrainian cuisine

Ukraine has always been known for its hospitality. And what is the best way to show hospitality? Well, of course, set the generous table for dear guests! If you ever happen to be invited to dinner with a Ukrainian family, never miss this opportunity. Trust me! Ukrainian traditional hospitality: tasty, fun, with a twinkle! Superb Ukrainian cuisine is complemented by subtle Ukrainian humor, full of irony and grotesque.

Ukrainian cuisine is diverse, flavorful, and nutritionally valuable. Its development was influenced by geography and climatic conditions, plant cultivation and animal domestication, economic relations with other countries.

The culture of Ukrainian cuisine grew essentially on the ground of people’s activities, hard-working lifestyle, and the factors of the natural environment. Thus, a special peculiarity of Ukrainian cuisine is the usage of primarily local products, such as meat, potatoes, mushrooms, vegetables, berries, and herbs. Meat plays an important role in Ukrainian cuisine. The most favorite is the pork meat, but also beef and mutton, poultry, and rabbit’s meat are widely used in national dishes.

It is important to note that the meal in Ukraine is cooked from fresh ingredients and ideally with fresh spices. Commonly, Ukrainian cooks, as well as housewives, use in the kitchen such spices as mustard, horseradish, dill, parsley.

Most popular Ukrainian dishes

  • Borsch
    Who doesn’t know borsch! There are dozens of types of borsch recipes, and even if two cooks make it out of the same ingredients, it will end up tasting variously. Borsch is a vegetable-based soup, made of beetroot, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, and dill. Although quite often it is cooked with meat, fish or beans.
Ukrainian borsch
  • Varenyky
    It’s hard to imagine Ukrainian food without varenyky. Varenyky, known more commonly in the English-speaking world by the name of their Polish “Pierogi”, are small dumplings stuffed with a wide variety of fillings. The most traditional stuffing is sauerkraut or mashed potatoes and they are usually topped with sour cream or fried onions.
Varenyky with mashed potato
  • Kovbasa – Home-made Sausage
    The savory home-made Ukrainian sausage, known as “kovbasa”, is extensively better than store-bought sausage. To cook it, thin casings are stuffed with pork ground meats, fats, and spices. Afterward, it’s traditionally either baked in the oven or you can fry it up on a pan.
Home-made sausage
  • Kholodets
    This cold dish is made of meat gelatin. Meat broth has to boil for a very long time, complemented with onions, carrots, and bay leaves. The broth is ready when you dip fingers in the broth and they come out sticky. After that, the bones are taken out of the broth, and meat sliced into small pieces is added inside. When it’s refrigerated, the broth hardens into a gelatin that is tasty with mustard or horseradish.
  • Holubtsi – Stuffed cabbage rolls
    Holubtsi is cabbage rolls stuffed with minced meat (as a rule, a mixture of pork and beef mince is used) and rice. The dish is usually topped with a tomato-based sauce. Cabbage rolls can differ in fillings and they can also be served with various sauces.
  • Deruny – Potato pancakes
    They say that these potato pancakes come from Belarus. But the significant difference between Ukrainian and Belarusian potato pancakes is that they add meat to Belarusian ones. While in Ukraine they are prepared from mashed raw potatoes and onion mixed with eggs and flour. The pancakes are fried in a well-oiled griddle and usually served with sour cream.
  • Pechenya – Home-made roast
    A homemade roast is usually cooked with meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, rabbit or lamb), but it can also be a vegetarian dish if you roast vegetables or substitute meat for mushrooms. The meat is fried with onions in a pan, then stewed in a pot with roots and spices. Also, in some recipes meat is roasted with potatoes. The dish can be cooked on the stove or in the oven. In the latter case, it is possible to use a rondel or a ceramic pot, but the most popular option is cooking in pots.
  • Salo – Pork fat
    One of the most famous products in Ukraine is pork fat called “salo”. There are many variants to eat: raw, salted, baked, smoked, or fried. It is mostly eaten in varied forms as an appetizer with garlic, onions, and pickles and often comes with the meal. At present, salo turned to be more of a stereotype towards Ukrainians, however, some hundred years ago it was indeed an integral part of Ukrainian cuisine.  

Indulge in the Ukrainian cuisine on a delicious Private Kyiv Food Tour! Visit the spots frequently visited by locals and discover flavourful dishes led by your local Kiev tour guide.

Ukrainian Beverages

Alcoholic drinks are served with food in Ukraine and here “gorilka” (Ukrainian vodka) plays an important role. It is considered a universal drink because it is suitable for any event and feast. A heart-warming friendly conversation, whether it’s a business lunch or a family holiday. But it goes especially well with loyal friends and with the right snack. Who else knows this better than the hospitable Ukrainian! Ukrainians make horilka in a special way – with herbs, honey, or fruits – then this kind of alcoholic drink is called “nalyvka”, horilka made with the honey is called “medovukha”.

When it comes to beverages, Ukrainians go for tea, coffee; “kvas” – a fermented drink made from black rye or rye bread, it contains up to 1,2% of alcohol though it is not considered an alcoholic beverage; “compot” – a soft drink based on berries or fruit. Different kinds of fruit juices are popular as well. Also, traditional for Ukraine is the self-squeezed fruit juices, made from their own fruit harvest.

Bread on the table – God in the house

For Ukrainians, bread is not only a material thing, but it is also a shrine, an object of worship, a talisman, a sacrificial meal, or even the deity itself. The bread is kissed, people meet honored guests with bread and salt, it is associated with well-being, in the Ukrainian language, the words “zhyty” (to live) and “zhyto” (rye) have a common root.
In 1848, while in Ukraine, the French writer Honore de Balzac wrote in a letter to Mrs. Shirkovich: “… when you come to Ukraine, this earthly paradise, where I have noticed 77 ways of making bread..”

The common type of bread produced in Ukraine is sour rye bread, and in the southern and southeastern regions, white-wheat bread is more common. Aside from ordinary bread Ukrainians bake various loaves of bread from special doughs: the braided bread (kalach), bread with a filling (knysh), French baguette, wedding bread (korovai), sweet bread (babka), Easter bread (paska).

So, now you definitely know where your next trip should be, right?!

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