Setting off to Ukraine, you should better make a resolution that you won’t overeat. Ukrainian traditional cuisine is irresistibly delicious. And it’s way too easy to find yourself slurping a bowl of borshch after you’ve already eaten a dozen of varenyky with sour cream and a few sandwiches with salo and garlic. No matter how desperately you want to carry a jar of borshch back home to indulge yourself, your family, and friends, the mission seems to be impossible. But instead, you may grab a tiny bit of Ukrainian gastronomy – a few local yummies that serve as memorable souvenirs from Ukraine.
Chocolates and sweets
Sweets are easy and cheap gifts to bring from Ukraine. At any supermarket, you’ll spot a stand with chocolates by Roshen – the largest local sweets factory. With over 300 products on its list, Roshen brings you relief: in a few minutes, you’ll find something suitable for your granny, nephew, and a colleague sitting in the neighboring cubicle. If you prefer handcrafted sweets to the mass market, check out Lviv Handmade Chocolate. Being a chain of cafes, it hosts its own chocolate production. You can be sure that you buy the freshest sweets, perhaps, the ones you’ve just observed being made before your very eyes.
The less obvious but equally mouthwatering souvenir is a jar of local honey. Ukrainian nature gives beekeepers a vast selection of locations for bee-gardens: sunflower fields of the south, meadows of Central Ukraine, the Carpathian mountains. Such freedom of choice results in dozens of producers offering herbal, flower, buckwheat, Acacian, and other kinds of aromatic honey. It won’t be challenging to find local honey at the closest supermarket. But if you want to get a more authentic experience, you should visit a street market or, to make it even more adventurous, a local honey fair. Such faires occur mainly in August and gather honey-makers from the region. Usually, you won’t encounter large producers at a fair, but you’d have a chance tо taste honey crafted at tiny family-held bee-gardens.
When it comes to precious and easily transportable food in Ukraine, caviar is the one to mention. You have a choice between red and black caviar. The red one is rather easy to find in a regular supermarket. Still, to make sure you get the desired quality for the price you pay, you’d better visit a store specializing in fish and seafood (such as Egersund Seafood or Dary Morya in Kyiv). Black caviar is even more expensive than red. Even though it’s produced locally, the price for black caviar lies in a range of 16-30k UAH per kilo (roughly $650-1200). With a bit of luck, you may find a cheaper option, but normally a can of 30 g would cost you $30, which seems to be a fair price for this delicacy.
Over 250 sunny days a year in the south of Ukraine, attract wine producers. Wineries occupied the coast of the Black Sea and spread into the steppes. Here, you may find dozens of local enthusiasts dedicating their lives to wine, and you may visit their wineries for tastings. But if you have no time or desire to travel in the region, you still have an opportunity to taste Ukrainian wines.
The secure choice would be to buy a few bottles of Kolonist. Since 2005, the winery specializes in award-winning dry wines, but you would also find semi-dry and sweet ones. The secret to the success of Kolonist is that it grows grapes in Danubian Bessarabia, on the slopes of the Lake Yalpuh – the largest freshwater lake in Ukraine. Centuries ago, the Greeks inhabited this area, and their traditions of winemaking are still alive.
Beykush is a relatively young winery that started official sales in 2018. Regardless of the youth of the brand, it has already shown its potential in making it to the top-rated Ukrainian producers. To buy a bottle of local wine, you can stroll a while at the grocery store. But if you go to wine-oriented stores (such as Good Wine, Winetime, OK Wine), you could talk to a consultant and make a wiser choice.
If you are into drinks stronger than wine, consider buying horilka. No worries, it’s not a mysterious East European mixture of random herbs and alcohol. Horilka is a Ukrainian way to call vodka, and there’s no chance you’ve never heard of vodka.
Usually, you’ll find horilka at the same stores as wine.At supermarkets, you have a risk of getting lost among the shelves filled with bottles. To be sure you buy one of decent quality, look for trustworthy local producers like Nemiroff or Khortytsia. Also, you may give a try to local fruit cordials like P’yana Vyshnya (Drunken Cherry) – a cherry-based sweet liquor crafted in Lviv. In a tiny bar with only one kind of drink to enjoy, you may spend a warm evening and buy a bottle of cordial to treat your friends back home.
Exploring the local
If you want to go even deeper into the local foods and drinks, you should visit thematic markets held in Kyiv. A fair Vsi.Svoi occurs every weekend at Desyatynna str.12 in Kyiv. Twice a month, the fair is dedicated to food and alcohol: you may taste local cheese, jams, sweets, sausages, beer, cordials, wine, etc. After spending a few hours wandering from stall to stall, eating the freshest products made exclusively with local ingredients, you won’t ask yourself again what to buy in Ukraine. You’ll ask how to make the customs let you back home with all the delicacies you squeezed into your suitcase.