Foods You Should Know: Borscht

Eastern European cuisine gets a bad reputation for being boring or at least staunchly utilitarian. But there are some classic dishes that have very interesting regional evolutions, Borscht being one.

You can blame communism for the lack of perceived flare of eastern european/eurasian cuisine. It was believed by the Soviets that enjoying food for anything beyond sustenance was an affectation of the bourgeoisie, and thus frowned upon. Essentially seventy years of food culture was suppressed by this ethos but it also gives us almost a food time capsule.

Borscht is a simple soup made from beetroot, cabbage, and tomato, though there are numerous regional and seasonal variations on those basic ingredients. The word borscht comes from the slavic word for beat. It is also common for Borscht to be served hot and cold. My preference is a simple borscht with lots of cabbage, dill, and a topping of sour cream. I also some nice Rye bread is always welcome for dipping.

What is interesting about Borscht is the different derivations depending on region.

In Poland, Borscht is a seasonal food. Each season brings different ingredients. In the fall potatoes and bacon are added. At Christmas a vegetarian borscht. In spring hard boiled eggs and fermented barley are added. And in summer a cold borscht is on the menu.

In the southern former Soviet Union*, it is normal to have beef, yogurt, and potato added.

In the Ukraine, borscht is actually made from a beef or chicken base not a beet root base. The beats are usually chunky vegetables in the broth as well as mushrooms, and string beans.

In all borscht is an easy to make, healthy soup that can be made very light and very heavy depending on what you have in the fridge. Finding a good eastern european restaurant in Windsor isn’t tough so find a local place and give it a try.

*Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan