Four things to eat in Ukraine… With a side of fat

mushrooms

Mushrooms. Like cilantro, you’re either a mushroom person, or you’re not. I am a mushroom girl. And every time I ordered the deceptively simple “plate of mushrooms” in Ukraine, I was in heaven.  This country is heavily forested, which means mushroom foraging must be a lucrative business here — and it translates to pure deliciousness on the plate.  The mushrooms I tried were small and toothsome, like some version of hen-of-the-woods, sauteed in garlic (there’s ALWAYS garlic in Ukrainian cuisine!) and butter and oil, topped with salt and chopped herbs. Who needs meat when there are sizzling platters of mushrooms on the table? Not I.

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Cherry Strudel. If you’ve had enough of savory dumplings and don’t want to order cherry vareniki (which are ALSO pretty darn incredible), do yourself and your friends a favor and order cherry strudel for the table. It’s not on every menu, but when it is, you know they’ll do it well.

It seems like they’re cooked to order, so they take a while to exit the kitchen, but you’ll get piping hot dough — almost a sweet calzone — encasing plump, blood-red cherries in syrup. It’s crisp and chewy and soft and sweet, and when topped with some vanilla ice cream, it puts the American cherry pie to shame. If my whole meal were soup and strudel, I’d call that a great night…and would promptly fall asleep.

Vareniki

Ready to eat? Here are some of my favorite places in Kiev and Crimea (which still serves Ukrainian food despite the Russian occupation):

KIEV:

Varenichnaya, Esplanadna St, 28А, Kyiv, Kyivs’ka oblast, Ukraine, 01023 http://varenichnaya.com/‎

Slavutych Slato Brewery, 24 Khreshchatyk Street, Kiev, Kyiv City, Ukraine, Kiev, Ukraine http://kiev.shato.com.ua/

CRIMEA:

4 Komnaty, Pushkina 4/7, Simferopol, Crimea 95000

PappaGrappa, Pushkina, 4, Simferopol 95000, Ukraine

Ciao, Samokisha, 7a, Simferopol 95000, Ukraine