Amazing Prykarpattia. A picturesque region visited by tens of thousands of tourists every year because it is a solid vacation area. The region offers hundreds of recreation options for every taste and under any weather conditions.
For example, you can enjoy active winter sports, skiing, freeriding, and snowboarding. In spring, summer and autumn, there are climbing, rafting, jeeping, outdoor yoga, mushrooming and berry picking. Lovers of passive rest can spend time in baths or thermal jacuzzis. They could also visit many museums in every settlement, simply recharge mentally and enjoy the powerful mountain energy.
The same attractive tourist aspect is the region’s gastronomic culture, which has absorbed many traditions and customs. Every authentic dish here is shrouded in legends or preparations like ancient rituals. Nothing surprising. It’s just that the famous Hutsul mistresses have always passed down recipes and stories heard from generation to generation. By the way, this influenced the taste of the food. Even the classic banosh, knysh and porcine mushrooms will taste different in each new place because everywhere are unique cooking methods.
I offer you a rich gastronomic route through Prykarpattiia, full of taste, particular culinary locations and recommendations for modern restaurants. Let’s go.
Yaremche: Restaurant kitchen without a single nail, souvenir market and banosh at the foot of Makovytsia
The first layover is Yaremche. Getting to know the cuisine in this city should start with the restaurant-museum ‘Hutsulshchyna.’ It perfectly shows Hutsul architectural traditions. The wooden building, erected in 1965 without a single nail, is decorated with filigree carvings on the outside. It is furnished with wooden furniture, a wood-burning stove, and samples of weaving made of natural sheep’s wool. The restaurant’s menu offers many dishes. Among the traditional ones are bogrács, porcini mushrooms in sour cream, krov’yanka (blood sausage), deruny, dumplings, and banosh, to which you can add mushroom gravy, cheese and crackers. Dishes are served on ceramic plates with authentic paintings.
One of the largest souvenir markets in the Carpathians is located near the restaurant. Without exaggeration, you can buy everything here: a variety of honey, pickled and dried mushrooms, cheese, smoked horse meat, deer meat, pork, tinctures, herbal tea, chocolate, and nuts. In addition to food, the market sells interior items and clothes. This year, to adapt to the state of war, the assortment of goods also includes military equipment.
Let’s continue our gastronomic adventures in Yaremche but at an altitude of more than 900 meters. There is a cheese factory on the meadow under Mount Makovytsia, where, in my opinion, the most delicious banosh in the Carpathians is brewed. Of course, I do not claim to be an expert, but I have tried this dish in at least twenty different places and variations, so I have something to compare it to. On the way to the destination, it is necessary to follow a path that is connected with the activities of the Opryshky (Carpathian highwaymen — ed.) in 1738–1745 under the leadership of the legendary Oleksa Dovbush. The attraction is called the ‘Dovbush Trail.’ During the several-hour route, you can admire the fantastic scenery, get acquainted with the Carpathian flora and fauna, and take beautiful photos as a memory of the trip.
Of course, you cannot do with the minimal fatigue obtained during the hike. Still, it is compensated by the extremely tasty banosh, to which you can add homemade sheep’s cheese and crackers if you wish. A panoramic view of the mountains will complement the palette of emotions. If you love animals, you will get an extra dose of joy when you see small sheep grazing on the territory of the cheese factory. Animals are very contactable, so you can easily pet them. I note that you can taste banosh at the foot of Mount Makovytsia only during May-September when shepherds and cheesemakers are in the pasture.
Verkhovyna: Modernized traditions in the best restaurant in the village and banosh-making master classes in the cheese factory museum
The next stop is Verkhovyna, one of the most beautiful Carpathian villages. The number of tourist locations is impressive, but we are exploring gastronomy, so we head to the best restaurant, ‘Panorama,’ in the centre of the settlement on the fourth floor of the Verhovel hotel.
The menu is mainly modernised but still has a few traditional items. In particular, marinated porcini mushrooms, cheeses cooked on polony (budz and vudra), bogrács, mushroom soup, knysh with cheese and mushroom gravy, krov’yanka (blood sausage), deruny, dumplings, banosh with cheese and cracklings, gombovtsi. You will not find a traditional serving of dishes in this establishment, but you will be able to satisfy the tasty recipes. If you book in advance, you should ask for a table by the window to admire the magical view of the mountains.
While exploring the cuisine in Verkhovyna, you can visit the Khata-Staya cheese factory museum. During the tour, the hosts discuss making sheep’s cheese and show some of the stages. On the territory of the manor, there is a variety of equipment necessary for cheesemaking, a cauldron over an open fire, various tubs, and dishes. In addition to the excursion, you can order master classes, for example, to prepare authentic Carpathian banosh.
Sheshory: Restaurant above the waterfall and vudra and budz cooked on polony
The village of Sheshory is considered the silver resort of Prykarpattiia. It became famous for its cascading waterfalls on the river Pistinka, which are called silver. Unsurprisingly, one of the most popular establishments, ‘Arkan,’ is located right above the waterfalls. Reserve a place on the terrace in advance because many people want to taste Carpathian cuisine with an incredible view of nature.
The list of traditional dishes on the restaurant menu is quite extensive. In this establishment, you can taste bogrács, mushroom soup, Hutsul soup, krov’yanka, fried porcini mushrooms with sour cream, white marinated mushrooms, Hutsul dumplings with meat or with mushroom gravy, or with sour cream, banosh with cracklings, mushroom gravy, cheese, as well as dumplings.
To the following gastronomic and aesthetic location in Sheshory, you will have to walk several kilometres from the centre of the village across the plain and another kilometre uphill. This route leads to the Rosokhat field, where the Hutsul Vasyl lives during the season from May to September. He gladly welcomes tourists, shows his farm, treats them with freshly made cheese (vudra and budz), tells legends and stories, and willingly answers questions. Spoiler: if you ask where to look for Carpathian molars, advise to pray and light a candle in a church or chapel instead of turning to magical powers. By the way, there is a small chapel in the meadow.
An open fire is burning in the hut where Vasyl lives. Mushrooms are dried above it, and cheeses are smoked on the roof under the smoke. The owner said that this fire is lit in May, when the shepherd comes to harvest the crops, and burns until September, when he leaves. According to him, calamity may happen to the shepherd or cattle if the fire goes out, so it is exceptionally protected.
If a large company comes to polonyna (a montane meadow — ed.), Vasyl offers to cook banosh together, which is an exciting interactive activity.
At the end of the gastronomic route through the Carpathians, I will share a recipe for the most famous traditional Carpathian dish, banosh.
According to a legend told by residents of the Carpathians, the recipe for this dish was invented by a female shepherd named Banosh. The man worked hard, so he had to eat well. However, the family was poor. The only products were cornmeal and sour cream. The woman cooked food from it and called her husband to the table, saying: ‘eat, Banosh, eat, Banosh.’
- 500 ml of cream or sour cream
- 200 g of corn grits
- Salt (to taste)
- Sheep cheese (to taste)
- Lard or bacon (to taste)
- White mushrooms (to taste)
- Pour cream or sour cream into a saucepan, put on moderate heat and bring to a boil.
- Gradually add corn grits, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon.
- Reduce the heat to a minimum, add salt and cook, constantly stirring, until the groats become almost soft. If necessary, you can add a little cream at this stage.
- When the porridge is almost ready, beat it with a spoon so intensively that the oil appears on the surface.
- Serve with cheese, crackers, and mushrooms to taste.
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