— Who invented the borshch?

Borshch is a special dish. It is without a doubt the favorite food of Ukrainians and it occupies a place of honor on daily and festive menus. Even if a number of other dishes await guests, a hostess usually says, “Please sit down, the borshch is ready.”

Borshch long ago became a symbol of our people in the world. It’s gratifying to know that borshch is a favorite dish in many countries. Restaurants in Brighton Beach, NY, highlight borshch on their menus and it is as popular as it was decades back in the bistros of Paris. Despite its seemingly unquestionable Ukrainian origin, other nations also consider it one of their age-old dishes. There are countless versions of the story of how borshch came about. Needless to say, the competition to claim “ownership” of borshch is proof of its tremendous popularity. Yet the question remains: Where does it come from?

Borscht is soup made mostly from beets. It is/was a specialty of eastern European/Russian cuisine, primarily of the poorer people (beets were cheap). The soup dates at least to Medieval times.

Borchch. A beetroot soup which can be served either hot or cold. It is essentially a dish of E. Europe, this region being taken to include Russia, Lithuania, Poland (where the name is barzcz) and, most important, the Ukraine. Ukranians count it as their national soup and firmly believe that it originated there. They are almost certainly right, especially if...one can properly apply to such questions the principle followed by botanists: that the place where the largest number of natural variations is recorded is probably the place of origin of a species.

 In Poland, it is barszcz with little stuffed dumplings; in Romania, they make a borshch called ciorba, using a base of fermented seeds. Artiukh says: “Together with a team of learned colleagues I went on an ethnographic expedition to our borderland regions. In Moldova we were told that borshch is their national dish traditionally served at lunchtime. You will never see another first course on a Moldovan table. A Russian restaurant’s menu boasted “Siberian” and “Moscow” borshch. National dishes generally have much in common in the territories between two countries where the cultures are closely intertwined.”

Later the traditional Ukrainian borshch began to evolve. In the 18th century Peter I introduced potatoes to the Slavic lands. It started replacing the traditional turnip. The first tomatoes that arrived here early in the last century also became a key ingredient of borshch. Today there are at least 30 traditional borshch recipes, many of which reflect regional differences.

In western Ukraine, borshch is rather sweet, unlike its eastern counterpart. More often than not it is cooked without cabbage and tastes like the Polish version. On the Left Bank it is cooked with pickled beets or beet kvass, which adds acidity. In the rest of Ukraine borshch is made with tomatoes that set the tone.

Chernihiv borshch contains squash, while Kyiv borshch features salo (fatback), garlic, and beet kvass; Poltava borshch contains halushky (dumplings); Odesa borshch is made with goose; Lviv borshch with little sausages. There are also “green” and “cold” borshches; others are made with a meat and/or mushroom broth, prunes, or kidney beans.

Some cooks use whole beets when they cook borshch, others grate them, while other cooks use only tomatoes. In some Ukrainian regions they sprinkle in some flour and add sour cream to boost acidity.

In Pattaya,borshch can be enjoyed in a restaurant-brewery"BeerFest" for just 120 baht!


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