The Eurovision extravaganza that’s culminating tonight in Liverpool has in an unprecedented way introduced Ukrainian culture to millions. Some watched Ukrainian performances on the Eurovision stage from the comfort of their own homes, others participated hands-on in Ukrainian culture activities offered in the city in the north of England, with sold-out shows and buzzing exhibitions. 

But no national culture is complete without cuisine and Ukraine’s is integral to its identity with perhaps its most famous dish, borshch, being added to UNESCO’s list of the country’s intangible cultural heritage just last year. 

The Discover Ukraine section at the far end of the official Eurovision fanzone Eurovillage offers visitors a chance to try this classic, as well as dishes from all around Ukraine, courtesy of United by Food – a collaboration between the London-based Ukrainian restaurant Dnister and Ukraine’s most well-known chef Ievgen Klopotenko. 

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Together they are offering authentic Ukrainian dishes – well-known borshch with smoked pears, traditional Crimean-tatar chebureki (deep fried dough with lamb mince and herbs), dumplings with cherries, Lviv’s syrnyk and more. 

The Kyiv Post caught up with some of those at the Discover Ukraine section and asked them for their impressions.

Christian Jones and Louisa Wanless

Christian and Louisa. 

We first find Christian and Louisa, a young couple living locally. Despite having no Ukrainian heritage, Christian is sporting a t-shirt with the Ukrainian coat of arms (under his jacket) – the same brand often sported by Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky himself. Christian got himself a palianytsia for £9.50 – a pan baked soda bread, topped with smoked beef brisket, pickles, salad and honey mustard sauce.

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“It’s lovely and nice. I’m enjoying it,” he told the Kyiv Post before adding that he would buy the dish again.

Despite that being big enough to act as a hearty meal, he decided to embrace Ukrainian cuisine further that afternoon and bought himself a cup of borshch – a traditional Ukrainian beetroot broth soup, which he said was fine but didn’t blow his mind. The reason might be that he cooked the dish himself before and prefers borshch of his own making. 

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Christian did like the syrnyk though. 

He complained that there was no food establishment in Liverpool that served Ukrainian food, which he hopes might change soon.

Louisa got a cheburek - a Crimean Tatar dish, deep-fried turnover pastry with ground beef and lamb, onion, and seasoning.

“It’s so rich and so nice,” she said.

Clive and Susan Marshall

Clive had a cheburek and said: “It’s very tasty, greasy. A lot of fresh air in it but I did enjoy it. It was the fact that it was deep-fried, I couldn’t tell. A bit crispy around the edge.”

Susan had a palianytsia. She said that she and Clive have never been to Ukraine and so have not had Ukrainian food before.

“The nearest we’ve been is Hungary, where we’re going back to soon,” she noted.

“This is my dinner. It’s very filling. I don’t know how the pancake is made. It’s soda bread but it’s not like when I make soda bread,” she said.

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She added that the couple likes trying out traditional foods in places they travel to.

James Bellingham

James Bellingham.

James Bellingham has come to enjoy Eurovision from Manchester. He has been to Ukraine before but has never tried the Ukrainian Kompot Spritz and for a good reason, too. This is an alcoholic drink, the recipe of which was created by Ukrainian-born London-based chef Olia Hercules specifically for Eurovision. It is a fruity cocktail blending berries, rhubarb and sour cherries with Ukrainian vodka, Prosecco and soda water.

“It’s really nice,” James said. “It’s fruity but has this tanginess, I guess. I can’t quite place what the fruits are, there’s some strawberry but there’s definitely something else there.  

“It’s very much like a summer drink and I could happily drink it all summer long.” 

Asked if he would buy the drink again, James said “definitely.” The only drink he could compare the Kompot Spritz is a strawberry daiquiri but the textures are different, he said.

Gateway to Being Rolled out Nationally

Veronika Yasynska (L).

All the people the Kyiv Post spoke with said that they wished Ukrainian food and drinks were available in their country permanently, beyond the Eurovision period. There are a couple of Ukrainian restaurants in London and an odd Ukrainian restaurant in a couple of other areas across the UK, but with more than 160,000 war refugees having made the UK their new (temporary) home, it is surprising that there are almost no food establishments to cater for them. Liverpool, before Eurovision, had no Ukrainian food available anywhere.

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Veronika Yasynska, the event project assistant for Eurovision 2023 at Culture Liverpool who organised the Discover Ukraine section said that she hopes that after getting a tase of Ukraine’ cuisine, Liverpool will want to keep it permanently and Crimean Tatar food, a cuisine that currently isn’t represented anywhere in the UK, will finally be introduced to the English.

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