Mention Ukrainian cuisine and heavy, fat-laden dishes such as bowls of thick and velvety borscht soup topped with a dollop of sour cream and lard-slathered banosh (cornmeal porridge) come to mind.
But take a closer peek at some of these classic Ukrainian dishes—such as holubtsi, a dish of boiled cabbage rolls stuffed with meat, rice, potatoes and spices—and there is a wealth of ingredients from the verdant Carpathians mountainous region in the west of Ukraine.
One of Ukraine’s up-and-coming chefs, Yaroslav Artyuk from Kanapa restaurant, gives us a peek into his Ukrainian kitchen pantry.
SaloPrized for its rich buttery fat and melt-in-your-mouth texture, these slabs of cold cured pork fat are one of Ukraine’s national food. For salo, potato-fed pigs are used, as their bellies tend to have a higher starch content and its fat yields more meat. Salo is best served on a slice of dark rye bread with pickled cucumbers or horseradish sauce before being washed down with a shot of vodka.
Sea Buckthorn OilThis golden-brown oil is extracted from sea buckthorn berries that are commonly found in the Carpathians mountains. The vegetable-based oil is widely used as a salad dressing as it has a sour zing and a floral scent. This oil can also be stirred into teas and the berries are also used to make jam.
BrynzaThis sheep’s milk cheese is made from an ancient recipe that dates back more than 1,000 years. The milk comes from sheep that graze in the Western Carpathian Mountains, and then fermented in a brine that imparts a saltiness that is reminiscent of Parmesan. Brynza is typically stuffed in varenyky (boiled dumplings that have an assortment of sweet and savory fillings) or sliced onto salads.
UzvarThese dried pears and plums are permeated with an intense smokiness due to being kept in an ember-filled, wood-fired oven. Uzvar is a popular snack during the winter months when fresh fruit is in short supply. They can also be concocted as chilled drinks by being infused with water and spices like cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg.