Ukraine is not home to prominent chefs and restaurants, but it sure has some delicious food that you should know beyond just borscht and chicken Kiev. Posh or expensive, home-style or dirt cheap, Ukraine’s got it all.
Here are 10 foods to try in Ukraine.
1. Shchaveloviy borscht or green borscht
Like Russian food, Ukrainian food is traditionally substantial and hearty. Cabbage and potatoes are the staples. Both ingredients are found in soup (red borscht), in salads and more.
When in Ukraine, try green borscht. Also known as shchaveloviy borscht, the green borscht is Ukraine’s classic soup. It is made of bone broth, schavel (a type of vegetable, also known as sorrel), potatoes, onion, bay leaves, and dill. It is served hot with a dollop of sour cream.
At Kanapa, my favorite restaurant in Kiev, the chef serves green borscht in an uncooked cabbage. Look at the photo below.
2. Nalysnyky or Ukrainian crepes
The most popular are the cheese-filled nalysnyky. There are variations. You can find sweet or savory crepes – made with mushrooms, cheese or berries. Pictured here are sweet Ukranian crepes wrapped with poppy seeds, bryndza (sheep milk cheese) and berries.
3. Ukrainian pickled herring
Fish and vegetables are pickled and preserved to last through the long winter months in Ukraine. You can try Ukrainian pickled herring with bread throughout the country. This dish is garnished with pickled onions and fresh dill or scallion.
4. Chicken Kiev
You can’t leave Kiev, the capital of Ukraine without trying chicken Kiev. To make chicken Kiev, chefs pound the chicken breast until it is flat and roll it with butter, dill, and chives. Then the chicken breast is dipped into eggs, followed by breadcrumbs before frying.
Although chicken Kiev is made of chicken breast, the chefs somehow found a way to stick a bone inside that serves as a little handle and made it look like a chicken drumstick.
5. Varenyky or dumplings
Varenyky can be sweet or savory dumplings. Varenyky are similar to Polish pierogis and Italian ravioli, and it’s considered a Ukrainian national dish. The savory ones are filled with cabbage, potatoes, cheese, meat, or mushrooms. Sweet varenyky contains blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and other seasonal fruits.
In Kanapa, you can find the black version (photo above). And in Spotykach, another famous restaurant in Kiev, they serve yellow and blue varenyky, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
6. Kholodets or aspic jelly
Kholodets or aspic jelly is a traditional Ukrainian cold dish made with bone broth, meat, and vegetables. The bones and cartilages are simmered on low heat for a few hours. When the soup cools down, it gelatinizes. This unique delicacy is a must-have during holiday celebrations, but you can try them in some restaurants in Ukraine. I tried kholodets at Kanapa restaurant in Kiev.
7. Deruny or Potato pancakes
Deruny or potato pancakes are served as a side dish, appetizer and for breakfast too. In Ukraine, potato pancakes are always served alongside a dollop of sour cream. Prepared with grated potatoes, onions, eggs, and salt, these delicious pancakes are affordable and heartwarming. Most cooks have their favorite variation, adding a bit of this or that as preferred.
8. Rachki or Black Sea prawns
In the US, boiled peanuts are a traditional snack in the southern state, but in Odessa Ukraine, they eat rachki, the Black Sea prawns. You can get them from the babushka in the market or on the beach of Odessa.
9. Georgian salad
Vegetarians and those who prefer salad may enjoy Georgian salad in a Georgian restaurant in Ukraine. There are a few good Georgian restaurants in Kiev that offer tomato, cucumber with walnut sauce. Known as Kitris da Pomidvris Salata Nigvzit in Georgian, this salad with thick and creamy walnut sauce is refreshing after days of eating potato pancakes and dumplings. Here’s one I had at Chachapuri in Kiev.
10. Cream soup in edible bread cups
When in L’viv you must try the creamy vegan soup served in edible bread cups. Get it to go at Soup Culture on Staroievreiska 31, Lviv. There are only two seats in this vegan-friendly soup shop. There are four types of soup – mushroom, lentil, cheese, and seasonal.