What defines a good destination? Sightseeing? Cost of living? Weather?
Of course all of the above are important, but I would also add the local food to the list. I can’t imaging living in a place with awful food even if it had 365 days of sunshine. Everyone that’s been to the Philippines knows what I’m talking about!
I am writing this piece from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. I’ve been here one week and just got home after eating another delicious post-gym lunch with my crew. And for dinner I plan to have a three course meal at the restaurant down the street.
When people think of Ukraine they usually don’t think about great food. That’s a shame because this part of the world has so much to offer when it comes to rich and tasty food. Ukraine has always been at the cross road between east and west and their cuisine has incorporated the best of both worlds.
Since this is my third visit to Kiev I have accumulated quite a bit of knowledge about the cuisine here. Therefore I decided to write an article about my five favorite traditional Ukrainian dishes. Let’s start with my favorite Ukrainian soup called Okroshka.
When you think of Ukrainian soups I bet you think about the red beet soup Borshch. But I actually prefer it’s cousin Okroshka. Okroshka is a cold soup made of Kvass (a drink made from fermented bread) and ingredients typically consists of diced raw vegetables (cucumbers, radishes and spring onions), boiled potatoes, boiled eggs and meats, usually ham. Kvass is sometimes replaced with Kefir which gives the soup a white color.
Just before being served, Okroshka is garnished with mustard (my favorite) or sour cream. Very delicious!
Varenyky is a popular dish in Slavic countries and sometimes also known as Pierogi. They look like Chinese dumplings but have their own unique taste. If you love Chinese dumplings you’ll love Varenyky!
Varenyky is made by wrapping dough around a filling and then boil them. The fillings could be pretty much everything but most common are potato, meat or cheese. Just before being served they are usually topped with onions or sour cream. Sometimes you can also find sweet Varenyky with fillings like fruits. They are great for dessert!
The third dish on my list is called Nalysnyky. Nalysnyky is a crepe that’s typically filled with cheese, but you can also find them stuffed with meats, cabbage or even sweeter versions with fruits. And as always with Ukrainian food, they are served with a topping. Usually sour cream.
Nalysnyky is very easy to cook and has been popular in Ukraine for many centuries, especially on the countryside.
#4 Chicken Kiev
Probably the most famous of the traditional Ukrainian dishes. Chicken Kiev is chicken fillets rolled in egg and breadcrumbs and then either fried or baked.
It’s true origin has been lost, but it’s thought to have been invented by the chefs at the Kiev Continental hotel in the beginning of the 20th Century.
The last dish on my list is Kovbasa. Kovbasa is a general term for a variety of sausages but most commonly referred to home made sausages, which is more tasty than the ones you find in the supermarkets.
If you want to try the home made Kovbasa, ask for ‘Domashnia’.
Bonus: Food Prices and Where to Eat
If you’re used to go out and eat in the United States or Western Europe, the restaurant prices in Ukraine will be a pleasant surprise. It’s so affordable that I never cook my own food. I eat all my lunches and dinners at restaurants.
I can give you one example from an Ukrainian restaurant chain called Puzata Hata. It’s a buffet style restaurant where you choose from a number of traditional Ukrainian dishes. The food is very delicious and you can find all of the traditional Ukrainian dishes from my top 5 list here.
The price depends on the weight or the number of items you put on your plate. The below photo is from a dinner I had at Puzata Hata last weekend. This was enough food to satisfy even my macro-nutrient needs. And all that ended up costing me only 111 Ukrainian Hryvnia, or about $4 in today’s exchange rate. Not bad.
The lunches in Kiev are worth a special mention. They are typically known as “Business Lunches” and can be found on a special menu. Most restaurant offers a three course meal including drinks with prices ranging from $2 to $5. My favorite business lunch spots in Kiev are called Pervak and BEEF Meat & Wine.
Of course there are other tasty traditional Ukrainian dishes. For example a potato pancake called Deruny and the pastry Napoleon Cake (I know it’s French but the Slavic version is my favorite!). In addition you can find many other world cuisines here in Kiev. For example there are many very good Italian restaurants here.
It’s also worth mentioning that Ukraine has so much more to offer than just food. For example stunning nature, many world heritage sites and great beaches at the Black Sea. And your hard earned dollars will get you very far in Ukraine due to the very favorable exchange rate.
Hope to see you around Kreshatik street soon!
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