The Delicious Foods of Ukraine

A former Soviet republic, Ukraine is now a democratic, pro-Western state. It shares borders with Belarus, Russia and Poland to the north; with Slovakia and Hungary to the west; and Romania and Moldova to the south. Ukraine is a rich country with natural resources including oil, natural gas and iron ore. It is also a major producer of winter wheat and sugar beets. Its central belt has chernozems, the most fertile soils in the world.

The capital of Ukraine is Kiev (Kyiv), a fascinating city with a rich historical and cultural heritage and a bustling modern metropolis. Ukraine is also a beautiful country with picturesque landscapes, mountain ranges and the Black Sea coastline.

In recent years, Ukraine has been plagued with political unrest. The government of president Viktor YANUKOVYCH has been accused of corruption, and a three-month protest occupation of the main square in the capital, Kyiv, led to pitched battles, scores of deaths and international condemnation. The government eventually relented and agreed to a deal with the EU, bringing new elections in the spring of 2014.

Among Ukraine’s many culinary treasures are some of Europe’s most delicious food. Some of these foods are enjoyed not just in Ukraine, but well beyond its borders, and are among the country’s most important culinary traditions.

Borscht is one of the most beloved dishes in all of Ukraine, and indeed across Eastern Europe and much of the rest of the world. This beet soup is not only delicious, but it’s healthy and full of antioxidants. Served cold, it can be refreshing in the summer and comforting in the winter. It can be garnished with sour cream, grated cucumber, or pieces of carrots and beets.

Another very popular dish is salo, a smoked meat spread similar to corned beef or pastrami. It’s a staple at Ukrainian bars and restaurants, and it can be found in many other Slavic countries as well.

A traditional Ukrainian soup, kapusniak, is made with five key ingredients: meat, eggs, potatoes, sauerkraut and mayonnaise. The soup can be eaten throughout the year, but it’s particularly popular for weddings, funerals and Christmas dinners.

During the Holy Supper (Sviat Vechir) on Ukrainian Christmas Eve, the korovai is a centerpiece of the table. This bread is braided strains of dough and shaped into a circle to resemble a wreath, and it’s traditionally given as a gift to the newly married couple.

A great vodka, Pristine, is a smooth vodka with a good balance of flavor, including spice and a bit of sweetness. It’s aged in wooden barrels, which adds some nice earthiness to the mixture. It’s sold in over 80 countries, so you’re likely to find a bottle in your area.