The name Ukraine brings to mind a country with deep artistic traditions. In particular, embroidery and pysanky (wax-resist decorated Easter eggs) are iconic symbols of Ukrainian culture. Both arts are rooted in deep antiquity and have immense regional variation, from the large blocks of bright colors typical of Western Ukraine to the more subtle white-on-white patterns that characterize the Poltava region in the east.
The Ukraine is the largest country in Europe that’s entirely landlocked, bordering Belarus to the north; Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west; Romania and Bulgaria to the south; and Russia to the east. Despite its size, Ukraine has long been multi-ethnic and tolerant of religious and cultural differences. This rich diversity is reflected in the country’s cuisine and folk art.
Its culinary traditions are closely tied to the regions that make up the country, with many dishes that have roots in the country’s rich and varied history. For example, in eastern Ukraine, the town of Zhytomyr is famous for its dumplings called Holubtsi, which are stuffed with ingredients like fried onions, shkvarky (pork cracklings), or even raw minced meat. Another traditional dish from this region is Deruni, which are shallow-fried potato pancakes topped with grated or ground potatoes, matzo meal or flour, and binding ingredients like eggs or applesauce.
In the south, Lviv is known for its food, including a dish called syrnyk, which is similar to a quenelle but with chicken fillets instead of fish. Chicken kiev is also popular in the country, with variations on the recipe based on the region. The syrnyk from Lviv is typically filled with cold herbed butter, while the kiev from Kiev has a more complex stuffing that resembles a quenelle.
Although the Ukrainian economy has been struggling since the outbreak of war in 2014, the country remains a dynamic democracy that’s open to foreign investment and is continuing to strengthen its institutions. The nation’s rich history has provided a foundation for a vibrant contemporary culture.
As a result, Ukraine has a lot to offer visitors, whether you’re interested in the vibrant city life of Kyiv or the pristine beaches on the Black Sea coast. And, if you’re hungry, there’s no shortage of delicious dishes to try. While the country may be best known for its soups and dumplings, Ukrainian cuisine also features many other tasty entrees, snacks, and drinks. Be sure to try a glass of horilka, a vodka-based drink infused with herbs, berries, or roots, as well as the classics such as borscht and Varenyky. While eating in Ukraine, remember to hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right, as is customary throughout much of Europe.