The most important tip I can give you on Ukraine local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Ukraine, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in Ukraine
Ukrainian cuisine is quite tasty, but just as other cuisines in the region uses a lot of fat ingredients, especially in the festive dishes. Traditional local food includes “salo” (salted lard) and soups like “borshch” in Ukrainian) made of red beets or “solianka” in Ukrainian) which is a delicious meat soup. The first, salo, is perhaps something you might not make yourself try – however is a delicious side dish, as for the soups being a must-have dish.
If you are outside a big city or in doubt about food, exercise caution and common sense about where you buy food. Try to buy groceries only in supermarkets or large grocery stores, always check the expiration date, and never buy meat or dairy products on the street (you can buy them at the market but not near the market). In most towns in Ukraine there are some very good restaurants. Read the menu boards posted by the entrance of every establishment to help you to choose. You may also find nice places to eat not by signs, but just by the smoke of traditional wood fires.
These are often places where they serve traditional Ukrainian food, including very tasty shashlyky in Ukrainian). Restaurateurs are very friendly, and, more often than not, you will be one of their first foreign visitors. Next to the “borshch”, you might also ask for “varenyky” in Ukrainian, dumplings filled with meat, vegetables or fruits) or “deruny” , potato pancakes). You have to try varenyky with potatoes and cottage cheese in a sautéed onion and sourcream sauce, a fantastic dish. These are just starters, but ones that might fill you up quickly.
What to Drink in Ukraine
The Ukrainian speciality is horilka (the local name for vodka) with pepper. Other kinds of vodka are also quite popular – linden (tilia), honey, birch, wheat. Prices range from $2 to $30 (1-20) for 1L. Souvenir bottles are available for higher prices (some bottles reach upwards of $50 (35)/0.5L). There is a great choice of wine, both domestic and imported. The domestic wines mostly originate in the south, in the Crimean region – known for wine making dating back to early Greek settlement over 2,000 years ago, although wines from the Carpathian region of Uzhorod are also quite tasty. Ukraine is also famous for it’s red sparkling wines.
Prices for local wine range between $2 to $50 (2-35) per bottle of 0.75L (avoid the cheapest wines, $1 or less, as these are sometimes bottled as house wines but sold as local vintages), however, one can find genuine Italian, French, Australian wines from $50 per bottle and more in big supermarkets and most restaurants. The price of imported wines dropped significantly over the last number of years and trends indicate further reductions in price. There are a lot of beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Ukrainian beer is of very good quality. Beer from barrels or kegs (more common in cafes) is often watered down. Canned beer is not very common in Ukraine and sometimes not of the same quality as the same variety sold in bottles. The best beers are brewed by Lvivske, Obolon and PPB (Persha Privatna Brovarnia). Imported beers are also widely available but more expensive for instance, a bottle of Austrian Edelweiss can cost upwards of $2 US while average price of Ukrainian beer is $0.50 US. All told, Ukrainian beers are very tasty and gaining popularity elsewhere in Europe. Of non-alcoholic beverages, one should try kvas a typically slavic drink made of rye or wheat.
During the summer one can easily buy it from designated street vendors. Its better to buy it in bottles due of unknown cleanness of the barrel. Milk drinks, of all sorts, are also available, although mostly in supermarkets. Bottles of mineral water are available everywhere, as well as lemonades, beer, and strong drinks. When seeking to buy bottled water make sure to ask for “voda bez hazu” (water without gas) otherwise you are likely to be handed the carbonated drink. Never buy vodka or konjak (the local name for brandy) except from supermarkets or liquor stores as there are many fakes. Every year a few die or go blind as a result of poisoning from methyl alcohol, a compound used to make fake vodkas. In Ukraine it’s possible to buy Cognacs from other former Soviet republics. The Moldavian and Armenian cognacs are quite good and not expensive.
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend Please add and comment.