My favorite festive meals in Ukraine

I have been away from home for more than 1.5 years but somehow, I try not only to learn Czech traditions but also to follow my native ones in Ukraine. The gastronomic culture of Odessa is very developed, so the New Year’s Eve season is always my favorite. What dishes does my family in Odessa prepare for New Year’s Eve? Let’s find out.

My dad cooks the most in our family, and it’s a big deal for him when New Year’s Eve is approaching. It all starts with going to the market and choosing fresh meat and fish. Usually, my dad doesn’t cook traditional Ukrainian dishes. He prefers to combine the cuisines of different countries and nations worldwide.

In Ukraine, we traditionally prepare a lavish table with many delicacies on New Year’s Eve, 31 December. Our New Year’s menu includes duck with apples, Olivier saladforshmak, many cheese and meat snacks, aspic, and Christmas pastries. If we talk about Olivier salad, the classic recipe consists of boiled potatoes, carrots, sausage, pickles, eggs, and mayonnaise. Each family prepares this salad differently – some with chicken or crayfish necks, while others with tuna or quail eggs. In my family, Olivier salad is most often prepared with crayfish necks instead of sausage. We always make mayonnaise ourselves as well. If we talk about the main course, it’s usually duck, which my dad bakes for 3 hours along with green apples or quince. Forshmak is a separate form of art. Every year my parents experiment and try out new recipes.

When it comes to dessert, my family never bakes pastries on their own, although in other families you can often find Christmas kalach or babka. Since Odessa is influenced by many cultures, local bakeries and pastry shops started baking Panettone and Stollen about 5-7 years ago. Panettone is a traditional Italian Christmas bread, and Stollen is a classic German Christmas pastry with dried fruits.

What else is a must-have on the New Year’s Eve table in our family? Sandwiches with red caviar and a thick layer of butter! Even though this tradition belongs to the Soviet times, in many Ukrainian families it is still considered that there can’t be a New Year without such a sandwich and a glass of champagne. At 11:50 pm all Ukrainians switch on the TV and watch the speech of the President of Ukraine, and then wish each other all the best and drink a glass of champagne at midnight sharp.

Would you like to know more about festive meals in the Czech Republic? Read our editors’ review of their favorite Christmas dishes.


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