Ukrainian cuisine is an exquisite combination of taste and originality. For a long time, it was known only for borscht and varenyky. However, the gastronomic universe of Ukraine is not limited to just two dishes. We have compiled a list of Ukrainian food you should try.
Matsyk is a dried Ukrainian delicacy that is just beginning to gain popularity among Ukrainians. It is also called the Polesia miracle. Polesia is a part of Ukraine covering the northern districts of Rivne, Volhynia, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, and Chernihiv regions.
Matsyk is made of a pork bladder. The bladder is cleaned and soaked in a solution of cold water and citric acid for 5–7 hours. After that, it is rewashed with cold water. Pork is cut into large pieces and seasoned with salt, natural spices and herbs. Everything is well kneaded by hand, and then the bladder is tightly stuffed with meat. The hole is tightly sewn. Afterwards, matsyk is hung in a well-ventilated room, for example, in the attic. The dish should be there for at least six months. After that, the meat is ready to eat.
The delicacy’s name comes from the word ‘matsaty.’ In the Polesia dialect, it means ‘to press with the fingers,’ which was a way to check the preparedness of the product while it was hanging in the attic.
Traditionally, the dish is cooked in the Rivne region. Matsyk festivals are held annually in Rivne and Varash. There you can taste the famous delicacy and buy it in different variations.
Vereshchaka is another gastronomic delight of Ukrainian cuisine. In the 18th century, Ukrainian writer Ivan Kotliarevsky mentioned this dish in his burlesque poem ‘Eneida.’ Later, people almost forgot the delicacy. Vereshchaka is made of pork ribs or brisket. According to the authentic recipe, the meat is baked in beet kvas with spices and garlic.
Ukrainian chef Yevhen Klopotenko actively promotes this dish. In Kyiv, you can taste vereshchaka in his restaurant ‘100 rokiv tomu vpered’ (one hundred years ahead). The authentic highlight of Ukrainian cuisine is also prepared in the colourful hotel complex ‘Stariy Khutir’ in the village of Opishnia, Poltava region.
It is a relatively simple and, at the same time, delicious Ukrainian dish. Shturkhantsi are made of potato dough stuffed with salty cottage cheese. Delicacies are served with cracklings or butter.
The recipe of shturkhantsi originated in Polissia. This region is famous for its special love for potatoes. Until recently, festivals dedicated to potato dishes were held in Ovruch and Korosten in the Zhytomyr region. Among the variety of dishes, one could also enjoy shturkhanytsi.
Uzvar is an essential ceremonial drink for Ukrainians. It is usually prepared for Christmas. It is a compote of some dried fruit such as apples, pears, cherries, raisins, or apricots. Sometimes honey is added to the drink. After cooking, the uzvar should be sent to an excellent place for about five hours. When it infuses, it will have a more pronounced taste.
Ukrainian cuisine is famous not only for meat dishes. Verhuny, or khrustyky, are traditional Ukrainian cookies. They are made of unleavened yeast-free dough. Traditionally, the delicacies are shaped like rhombuses with cuts in the centre. The version of cooking cookies differs depending on the region. Rum and almonds were added to verhuny in the Kyiv region, and lemon zest — in Konotop.
Ukrainians used to cook these crispy sweets on holidays. The hosts treated carolers with verhuny on Christmas.
Four years ago, the Living Museum of Verhuny was opened in the village of Checheleve in the Poltava region. The founder of the museum Nadiia Mykhailova said that she had created this space primarily to promote the authentic dish. Nadiia knows more than a hundred variations of the verhuny recipe and regularly conducts master classes for adults and children.
Kulish is an ancient Ukrainian dish which was eaten by Cossacks. It is a millet porridge cooked in the open air on fire in a cauldron. Kulish was convenient for cooking during military campaigns. In addition, kulish is a very satisfying dish. Probably, that’s why Cossacks liked it so much.
There are many recipes for cooking kulish. Traditionally, the dish is made of lard, meat, eggs, and millet. Vegetables are also added — carrots and onions.
Kulish is an absolute masterpiece of Ukrainian cuisine. This hearty porridge is served at many Ukrainian festivals. Now, Ukraine is constantly suffering from Russian missile attacks. Due to the destruction of the energy infrastructure, part of the population was left without electricity. People often cannot cook food. But here, kulish came in handy. Volunteers cook the legendary Cossack dish on the fire and treat it to those who need it.
Ukrainian national cuisine is experiencing its great revival. Forgotten authentic recipes are resurrected in modern kitchens. Ukrainians are exploring their gastro culture and popularising it in the world. Visit Ukraine and feel its taste!