The iconic borscht is probably the most famous Ukrainian dish. This simple soup is made with meat or bone stock, sautéed vegetables, and fermented beetroot juice. There are many versions - the broth can even be fish or vegetable-based, and the choice of vegetables varies from region to region.
However, the essential ingredients – beetroot and fermented beetroot juice – are mandatory. They give the dish a unique red color and provide the sweet and sour flavors. The exact origin of the dish is difficult to trace – although it is predominately associated with Ukraine, the origin of borscht is still fiercely debated.
Regardless of its origins, it is one of the favorite dishes across the entire former Soviet Union, especially in Poland and Russia, where it is also commonly regarded as the national dish, and in Poland, barczsz with dumplings is a traditional Christmas Eve starter.
Due to migration, the tradition of preparing borscht has long ago surpassed the borders of Eastern Europe, so today it is commonly found in Ukrainian restaurants across the world. In Ukraine, the dish is often served with savory yeasted buns called pampushki.
Borsch (beetroot soup) is not just a traditional Ukrainian daily meal, it’s a symbol of unity - the basis of the culinary tradition of Ukraine, which is stronger than any modern experiments and overseas borrowings. Borsch is a dish with a national character. It is primarily associated with Ukraine. This “association” smells delicious and promises warmth, comfort, fullness, and, thus, sense of peace. When Ukrainians choose to cook borsch as their everyday main dish - their express their patriotism and show their love for Ukraine.
In Ukraine, borsch has long been considered a symbol of a strong family: all the ingredients are cooked in a clay pot, transferring their flavors to each other, and as a result become one whole – a rich, hearty, and dense borsch. In days of old, borsch was eaten almost every day, served on holidays and at weddings. The peculiarity of this dish is that it becomes tastier the next day when flavors are well blended together.
The word borsch itself originated from the Old Slavonic word "b’rshch" (beet). This vegetable is an indispensable part of all borsch recipes. It gives borsch its very taste and color, while fragrant onion and garlic give emotional-to-tears piquancy, and burning pepper gives a zest reflecting Ukrainian sharp sense of humor and self-irony.