Borscht, Varenyky, and Mother's Cake in Kiev

Borscht (beet soup) and varenyky (dumplings). That was close to the extent of my knowledge of Ukrainian food prior to going to Kiev.

Although we were only in the city three days, being there really raised the bar on my outlook of Ukraine's food.

Borscht is definitely a staple, shown above with chewy knobs of garlic bread, as are varenyky, the Ukrainian version of what other cultures might call perigees or piroshky: small and soft, boiled or steamed dumplings, often filled with smashed potatoes, but also sometimes with ground meat or cheese. You can get dessert varenyky, too, filled with sweet cheese or cherries.

We ate some dishes that I associate with Russia, like Olivier salad (diced potatoes, other vegetables, pickles and ham, in a mayonnaise dressing), and others that seemed more like generic Continental European food, like a club sandwich, or poached eggs with smoked salmon.

One surprising dish was simply called Mother's Cake, and described as layers of cake with condensed milk. This was fairly accurate, if you imagine "cake" to be a dozen thin, pink wafers, and "condensed milk" to mean the caramelized concoction achieved by boiling for two to three hours a sealed can of sweetened milk. The cake was overly sweet and slightly dry, but a pleasantly unexpected way to end an unusual meal.