There is no denying that food plays an important role in our everyday life, it is essentially a basic human necessity. There is vast range of different types of cuisine around the world, with an array of flavours, tastes, aromas and aesthetics. There are a number of reasons to travel, and one of the most unique aspects of travelling is the luxury of being able to taste new foods, the ability to broaden your tastes buds and enhance your knowledge of the different cultural approaches to food.
Every country has its own range of ‘must try cuisines’, food that must be consumed within the country as you will never find the same authentic flavours anywhere else. Belarus is no different, and has many staple food items that can only be relished in the country, and if you are planning on visiting this ‘blue-eyed’ country, then read on, to find out what mouth watering, delicious Belarusian cuisine awaits you.
Belarusian cuisine originated in pagan times and shares the same roots with cuisines of other Eastern European countries mainly Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Ukraine. During the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Belarusian cuisine had been a mix of Baltic, Slavic, Jewish and also some German cuisines, therefore its no surprise that Belarusian cuisine is so diverse. Belarusian cuisine has a long standing history, and has evolved significantly over the centuries, it may have been influenced by a number of different countries, but it can definitely hold its own, and is distinctive in its own right. The country has retained some of its more traditional cuisines, but has also developed new recipes over time.
Belarusian dishes are well balanced, healthy and of course tasty! Belarusian cuisine is based largely on meat and a range of vegetables. The Belarusians pride themselves on being able to use local, home grown produce in their dishes, which can only enhance the flavours. There are a number of farmsteads in the country that provides fresh produce.
The ingredients that are widely used in Belarusian cuisine are vegetables and greens such as cabbages, turnips, beetroots, potatoes, onions, garlic and carrots, to name but a few. The Belarusians are also vey keen on using pulses in their dishes and it can include but not limited to beans of various types, peas and lentils. Mushrooms are also a staple piece of ingredient in Belarusian dishes and can be used in its natural form, pickled and even in powder form.
For a number of centuries meat dishes were only served during special occasions as it was so scarce at that point in time, and when it was used it was normally dried or salted meat. However, over time more and more meat was being introduced to Belarusian dishes. Today, meat is a key ingredient in Belarusian cuisine, and there is a wide variety on offer, such as pork, mutton, beef, poultry (chicken, duck, turkey and goose) and game. Pork especially is a favourite among the Belarusians. Fish is also largely used in Belarusian dishes and these can range from trout, eel, bream, pike and salmon-these are just a few.
Dairy produce are also known to be common in Belarusian cuisine, and the four main dairy items used are curd cheese, sour cream, butter and milk. Milk is often used to prepare soups and of course porridges, but it is also used in a number of other dishes, therefore again you could say that Milk is a staple ingredient in Belarusian cuisine. Flour is also a common ingredient in Belarusian cuisine and is often used as the main ingredient such as for pancakes or used for thickening of soups. There are various types of flour used in Belarusian cooking such as those made of oats, peas and rye.
In terms of using seasoning in their dishes, Belarusians tend to avoid using too many spices as they prefer the more natural taste, but of course that is not to say that seasoning is not used at all and some of the common spices and seasoning used in small quantities are cumin, coriander, dill, mustard, horseradish, salt and paper.
Belarusians also tend to use a lot of fruit and berries in some of their dishes and these include apples, pears, plums, cherries, currants, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries and raspberries.
The main methods of traditional cooking has been preserved by the good people of Belarus, there might be slight changes to the ingredients used keeping in line with the changing times and the availability of more produce, but the fundamentals are kept the same.
Belarusian dishes undergo through extensive cooking techniques before they are ready to be served. Such techniques include braising, baking, stewing, roasting and blanching; often several of these methods are used in just one recipe.
Some of the main traditional dishes of Belarus that are served today are machanka (pork stew- but alternative meats can be used), homemade sausages, draniki (potato pancakes), kolduny, kletski (dumplings), babka (baked potato pie), cold sorrel soup, mushroom soup, borche (beetroot soup) and vereshchaka (meat sauce). There is also an extensive selection of salads that one can indulge in.
The pride and joy of Belarusian cuisine that often accompanies its dishes, is the Belarusian bread made of rye flour. It is unlike any other bread, in taste and appearance alike. It is also extremely healthy.
Today, it is common to find food from other countries served in Belarus such as those of Asian origin or other European countries, but it’s recommended that when visiting Belarus you taste the national dishes, because it is unlikely you will find these dishes elsewhere. The Belarusian cuisine is truly delicious, interesting and somewhat different.
Potatoes! This vegetable deserves an honorary mention of its own when it comes to Belarusian cuisine. Among the people of Belarus, potato is hailed as the ‘second bread’. You are unlikely to find a more diverse range of potato dishes in cuisines other than that of Belarusian dishes. The potato is so popular and loved among the Belarusians that there are even songs about it. Potatoes are incorporated in salads; it is also often served with mushrooms, various types of meat, it goes great with onions and a number of baked dishes. The most popular among the Belarusians is of course the ‘draniki’, the potato pancake. The wide use of potatoes in Belarusian cuisine is due to the fact that Belarus has the ideal climatic conditions for potatoes to grow in, thus the end result are potatoes high in starch content which results in tastier dishes.
In the modern day Belarus, the main types of desserts are ice cream served with whipped cream, cakes, fruits and berries. Sweet pancakes with cottage cheese and pears is deemed to be a famous Belarusian dessert.
Harelka (Vodka) is the most popular alcoholic beverage in Belarus and it is often drank on special occasions and holidays. There are also medovukha, khrenovukha and samogon that are equivalent to vodka, which are also popular beverages in Belarus. The traditional non-alcoholic beverages are kvass and fruit kissel.
The Belarusians are a hospitable nation, and truly generous when it comes serving their guests therefore you will not be disappointed on your arrival to the country. The Belarusian cuisine in all of its authentic nature can only be tasted in Belarus, where is it prepared in the only way acceptable- the Belarusian way! It is healthy, fresh and tasty but above all unique; it will tickle your taste buds and will no doubt leave a lasting impression on your stomach no less and as it goes in Russian- ‘prijatnovo appetita’ (Have a good appetite!).