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Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Soaked in Butter Sauce: Ukrainian Food

If a person could marry a Ukranian chain restaurant, I would become a bigamist and enter wedded bliss with Puzata Hata. That is how much I love it. Writing this now, hundreds of miles away in Romania, my heart aches with loss and longing for the borscht, the meatballs, and the dumplings (oh, God, the dumplings!) of my left-behind love. Andy says it's delayed-response artery-clogging from all the butter sauce and sour cream, but he's just jealous.

It doesn't look like much in the picture, but everything we ate at this cafeteria-style restaurant (which has several branches around Kiev) was utterly scrumptious. From top left: delicious meatballs, crispy on the outside and soft inside; yummy borscht (a beet-and-onion-based soup that my grandmother used to eat at home and I never thought I liked until I got to Ukraine); the best dumplings on earth, varenyky, filled with the same tasty meat as the balls and scooped out of a steaming pot of butter sauce; and some sauteed potatoes, also buttery.
We went back every night and tried a few other dishes, like potato and cherry varenyky and several other meaty balls, but in my opinion, the meat varenyky and these meatballs were the best dishes. Plus, the prices were really reasonable and the surroundings were quite stylish for a cafeteria. So if you are ever in Kiev, please do yourself a favor and have a few plates at your nearest Puzata Hata. And please beg them to open up a branch in New York. I may start an online petition...

OK, on to other foods of Ukraine, which are a lot less exciting. These bacon potato chips tasted vaguely smoky, but were otherwise unremarkable.
M&Ms come in three standard flavors in Ukraine: plain, peanut, and...this one. We couldn't read the package, so we just bought it to try. Turns out to be hazelnut. I thought they were good, Andy thought they were gross. Europeans definitely get a lot more hazelnut-flavored candies than we do in America.
McFoxy is the local McDonald's knockoff (although Ukraine has McDonald's, too). Their menus are basically identical (Kids can get a FoxyBox instead of Happy Meal)...except that McFoxy also sells these unidentified fried balls. We tried an order and they turn out to have processed chicken inside, kind of like a nugget. Not so good.
Ukraine has cherry nectar! Ah, my long-lost love from Turkey (if I could marry a TetraPak beverage...). Not nearly as many brands are available as in Turkey, but this one was pretty good.
Cherry drinkable yogurt. It was OK. Eastern Europe has a lot of yogurt brands, but none have wowed me so far.
Blinis are the Ukranian version of crepes, often served with some fruit jam for dessert. Good stuff.
I finally got to try Chicken Kiev...not in Kiev, but in Yalta. Turns out that the breading is sweet, so it's kind of like chicken in a donut. That squirts hot butter sauce when you slice into it. Ukranians love their butter sauce, and I am not complaining about this.
Smaller dumplings called pelmini are also popular in Ukraine, and when we had a kitchen in Yalta, we cooked up some frozen ones that we found on sale at the grocery store. How much is a bag of on-sale frozen potato pelmini in Ukraine? Around 40 cents US. We used to get on-sale frozen pierogies in the states for $1 and thought that was an amazing deal until we got these.
In our world travels, we have seen ice cream in many forms, but never in a frozen sausage until Ukraine! Convenient for slicing...not so convenient for saving for later, so we just had to eat it all in one go. Cherry flavor, of course. Hooray for a country that loves cherries as much as I do!
Last shot from a restaurant in Yalta--Andy's beef tenderloin, which came in a kind of vegetable soup, and some pelmini (not as cheap as the ones we cooked ourselves). It was all OK, but it was no Puzata Hata meal. They need to open a Yalta branch!
I had really low expectations for Ukranian food, so I was seriously pleasantly surprised at how many tasty dishes I ended up eating. And I was happy with all the cherry products, too. Who knew Ukraine was a hot culinary destination? Go now, and bring me back some dumplings.

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