Ukraine has been in the news a lot lately for all the wrong reasons. But this fascinating country is much more than just an escalating war with Russia and a disputed territory in the east. It is a country with a rich history and a diverse culture that is reflected in the food they eat.
One of the most popular dishes in Ukraine is borscht, a beetroot soup that is often served hot or cold. It is made using a large number of beets (usually sour ones), along with cabbage, carrots, onions, and tomatoes. This is a hearty and nourishing one-pot meal that can be eaten during the weekday as well as during special occasions such as funeral wakes. It is also served alongside smetana (sour cream) and pampushky, which are small savory yeast-raised buns or dumplings.
Another popular dish is chicken Kiev, a fried or baked breaded chicken cutlet with herb butter inside and usually dill, lemon, or parsley in the recipe. It is one of the most famous Ukrainian dishes and it was invented in the city of Kyiv, where you can still find excellent restaurants serving it.
The country is home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the Saint-Sophia Cathedral in Kiev is one of them. It is a must-see if you ever get the chance to visit the country and enjoy its culture.
As one of the most fertile countries in the world, Ukraine has a wealth of culinary delights. Breads like rye and wheat are a staple on the Ukrainian table as well as vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, corn and beans. Meats and cheeses are also commonly found in many of the local dishes.
In the past three decades of independence, Ukraine has sought to balance its nationalist identity with a desire to integrate with Western institutions like NATO and the European Union. This has been difficult because of deep political divisions, with Ukrainian-speaking western regions generally favoring closer ties with Europe while a mostly Russian-speaking east preferring a close relationship with Moscow.
The tensions escalated in late 2014 when President Viktor YANUKOVYCH backtracked on a trade and co-operation agreement with the EU, and his government used force against protesters demanding better economic ties with the West. The resulting three-month occupying protest in central Kyiv led to pitched battles, scores of deaths, international condemnation, and the resignation of YANUKOVYCH. His replacement, Volodymyr Zelensky, has vowed to rekindle integration with the West and strengthen Ukraine’s sovereignty against Russian aggression. This has prompted renewed military, economic and diplomatic assistance from the West and new sanctions against Russia. But many in the country fear that Russia’s annexation of Crimea could lead to further invasion and escalation of the conflict.