Researchers have documented that cultivation, hunting, and gathering in Ukrainian regions date back to 4000 BC. The abundant and fertile soil made Ukraine a favourable place for settlement, and when settlements were established, the grazing of pigs and cattle increased.
If you travel to western Ukraine, you will discover the Carpathian Mountains, which provide broad meadows for grazing cows, goats, and sheep - the care and ethical handling of livestock produces tender and juicy meat and dairy products.
Although Ukraine was controlled by other regional powers until 1991, women kept culinary traditions and love for cooking and family recipes passed from one generation to another have never wavered and remain the basis of Ukrainian food culture today.
Ukrainian women can prepare such famous traditional dishes as:
- different soups (including famous borscht, kapusniak, mushroom yushka);
- dumplings and pancakes with various fillings;
- various types of bread, cheeses, and meat products.
Dishes vary depending on the region, season, and family cooking traditions. Ukraine shares culinary arts with its neighbours, Central and Eastern European countries. But there is also something that forms the unique image of Ukrainian cuisine.
In its main features, national cuisine took shape at the beginning of the 19th century and finally took shape in the first half of the 20th century. It combines many diverse regional customs. In addition, the uniqueness of the recipes was significantly influenced by Polish, Hungarian, German, Turkish, and Tatar culinary traditions.
Ukrainian cuisine has come a long and exciting way during its existence, from simple rural dishes cooked by women in clay stoves to complex ones with fascinating cooking methods. Gradually fulfilling culinary exploration and possessing their culinary tastes, Ukrainians created unique products and cooking methods.
Ukrainian culinary arts and traditional foods
Ukrainian culinary heritage is extremely rich. There are thousands of traditional dishes. Some of them may seem extraordinary due to unusual combinations. However, you will be surprised by the unique taste they create.
The central dish of Ukrainian cuisine is bread from rye or wheat flour. Traditionally women made and baked bread in traditional clay ovens.
Lard is a favourite national product. Ukrainian women can serve it as an independent dish (salted, boiled, smoked, and fried) and as a seasoning and fatty base for various traditional dishes, even sweet ones, combining it with sugar or syrup.
Vegetables play an important role in Ukrainian cuisine. Beetroot comes first and can be called a national vegetable. In Ukraine, vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes, and corn are also prevalent.
There are a lot of recipes with cherries, plums, pears, currants, and watermelon, and these fruits and berries are the most beloved in Ukraine.
The most iconic Ukrainian dishes
The features of traditional Ukrainian cuisine have been formed over centuries. Neighbouring countries, climatic conditions, rich soil, and hardworking local people influence the complexity of the traditional dishes. Dishes are generously seasoned (often, the main seasoning is garlic) and, despite conflicting tastes, create a harmonious mixture. Homemade cooking and personal preferences also influence the way food is made.
Borscht with garlic pancakes
You can not imagine national Ukrainian flavour without mentioning this iconic traditional dish. You will never find two similar ways of cooking, as all women and girls prepare it differently, and all of them will claim that their recipe is the best and correct. Borsch is often cooked with many ingredients. Initially, women used up to 30 ingredients, but this number decreased over time. However, the technique remains the same. Beef is placed in cold water to make beef broth. Then, the meat is removed, and the remaining ingredients are added and cooked in a covered pan. Instead of bread, they give you a garlic pastry, called pampushky. Traditionally, every Ukrainian girl learns to cook borscht even before marriage.
Deruny, or potato pancakes, is a great breakfast or dinner dish. They are usually fried or baked. If you want to prepare a good portion of pancakes, you should ensure the potatoes are finely grated. Then add meat, sliced onions, mushrooms, fresh herbs, or various spices to vary the flavour. Culinary creativity can liven this dish!
This has already become a source of humour: Ukrainians love lard. This established symbol of hospitality and wealth is usually served as an appetiser and sometimes a complete meal. Pork fat is reported to be a source of vitamins D and A, which aid brain function, digestion, and detoxification. Place it on rye bread with spices or herbs and get a surprisingly healthy snack.
Women make varenyky or dumplings from the dough, and the filling depends on the cook's imagination and taste preferences and guests' preferences. The most typical fillings are cabbage, meat, mushrooms, cottage cheese, cherries, currants, or potatoes. Savory or sweet, the dumplings are juicy. Ukrainians put sour cream in almost every dish, and these dumplings are often prepared the same way. Start your meal with one of these - you won't regret it.
One of the best gastronomic delights of national cuisine is meat kruchenyky. The recipe of this dish depends on the region. The kruchenyky can be filled with mushrooms, cheese, vegetables, and dried fruits - whatever the hostess and guests desire.
Golubtsi or stuffed cabbage rolls
Traditional golubtsi or cabbage rolls take many hours to prepare properly. Ukrainian women can prepare them in two ways: baked in the oven or stewed in a frying pan. Minced rice wrapped in cabbage leaves requires fine culinary arts, skills and passion. Otherwise, the shape and taste of the rolls will suffer. Stuffed cabbage rolls are a good choice for dinner; add a little sour cream to give the dish even more flavour. This dish is a good example of the dining preferences of many ukrainians.
This strange dish will shock tourists. But for Ukrainians, it is the central dish at all celebrations. Jellied meat is prepared from meat broth frozen to a jelly-like state with pieces of meat inside. The main component of this jellied meat is pork leg. More precisely, the lowest part is the one that ends with the hooves. It takes women a lot of time and effort to prepare this dish. But the result is so satisfying that it is worth it.
Homemade sausages contain meat, fat, and spices in a natural casing. The dish is superior to any store-bought sausage in composition and quality. Most Ukrainian women know their secret recipe and pass it from generation to generation. Mince pork or beef, add a little garlic, wrap and bake. The sausages can then be frozen, fried, baked, grilled, or boiled as a side dish for dumplings or banosh.
The most delicious dish in Western Ukrainian cuisine is banosh. It is aromatic and tender corn porridge from the Carpathian region. The classic version is boiled in milk and served with sheep cheese. But there is also free space for experimentation. You can add different ingredients - bacon, sheep cheese, and onions.
It is also only possible to imagine Western cuisine with brynza (sheep's milk cheese), which traditionally came to Ukraine from Slovakia.
A dish originally from Romania but popular in the Bukovina region is called mamaliga. It is prepared from congealed corn flour, which Hutsuls eat instead of bread.
Bograch is traditional to Zakarpattia. Women can make it in soup (more liquid) or goulash (less liquid), but the products are the same - up to five different types of meat, including smoked meat, pepper, potatoes, smoked paprika, and many herbs. The main peculiarity of the cooking borgach, a log from the fire on which the dish was prepared was dipped into the soup.
As you can see, the taste preferences of ukrainians in different regions include meat, various porridges, dairy products and vegetables.
Role of women in culinary traditions
Why do we always mention that Ukrainian women prepare traditional dishes? Because in Ukrainian culture, girls and women were the ones who were responsible for preparing food, keeping homes tidy, and looking after children. The same tradition is preserved to modern days, especially in small towns and villages, as the society adopted traditional gender roles. Women pass favourite recipes from generation to generation and among friends and the role of cooking in their lives remains significant.
However, that does not mean young girls must stay at the kitchen table. Many of them are gorgeous ladies who have rich social and professional lives, but they, in any case, can prepare delicious food for their families.
Many Ukrainian girls and women have culinary hobbies and like making healthy and tasty food for their families.