The Cuisine of Ukraine

Ukraine’s enduring struggle for independence has become the flashpoint in a deepening confrontation between Russia and the West. Since the conflict began last year, it has claimed the lives of more than 160,000 civilians and displaced millions more, making it one of the world’s largest displacement crises — and a major source of discontent in Europe. At the same time, the conflict has been marred by the mythmaking of both sides and a refusal to seek diplomacy.

Amid this turmoil, Ukrainians remain steadfast in their commitment to their country and culture. This pride extends to their cuisine, which is full of dishes that reflect the nation’s long history and varied cultures.

One such dish is korovai, a round bread traditionally used to celebrate weddings and other special occasions. It is made from braiding strains of wheat dough and shaped to resemble a wreath. The top portion of a korovai is given to the bride and groom, while the rest can be divided amongst guests or band members as a sign of good fortune.

Another common dish is borscht, a classic Ukrainian soup made with tender chunks of beef and loads of beets, onions, carrots, and cabbage. It is a hearty and warming comfort food that can be served with sour cream or mayonnaise, or paired with toasted bread.

A popular snack is lazy pierogi, a type of dumpling that can be sweet or sour. The sour ones are usually made with cottage cheese, flour, eggs, and a bit of sugar and vanilla, while the sweet ones are often filled with potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, cabbage, or peppers. They are often eaten with sour cream or some type of sauce and can be found in restaurants around Ukraine.

The southwestern part of Ukraine is covered by flat land, and the rest of the country consists of mountainous areas with hills and valleys. The most fertile soils in the country are called chernozems, and they make up about two-thirds of the nation’s area. These soils are characterized by their high levels of humus and black color. From northwest to southeast, the chernozems are followed by a zone of sandy podzolized soils; and at the southern end of the country, the terrain is occupied by a belt of prairie or ordinary chernozems with less humus and a lighter brown color. The chernozems of Ukraine are widely regarded as some of the best in the world for winegrowing. This fact is reflected in the success of Ukrainian wines at international competitions, such as Decanter’s World Wine Awards.