Belarusian national cuisine has evolved over the centuries. Belarusian culinary traditions represent a mix of simple recipes used by commoners and sophisticated cuisine of the nobility, extensive use of local ingredients, and unusual way of cooking. Belarusian cuisine is rich and interesting, and much in common with that of neighboring Slavonic nations: Russians, Ukrainians, and Poles. It’s influenced by the cuisine of Lithuania and Latvia but has preserved its characteristics, using grain, potatoes, meat, milk, and vegetables.
Old Belarusian recipes have survived to the present day, and the county’s visitors show an increased interest in them.
Belarusian cuisine widely uses potatoes, the “second bread”. Historically, potatoes were introduced to Belarus 75-90 years earlier than in Russia, and our climate facilitates the growth of many tasty varieties.
Grated potato is very common, and can be cooked in various ways, with methods combined. Belarusian cuisine often uses raw grated potato, shaped and fried: known as ‘tarkavanaja’ when used wet and ‘klinkovaja’ when drained. Mashed potato is sometimes combined with flour and baking soda. Traditional draniki (potato pancakes) enjoy great popularity, served with sour cream, fried fat (pork rinds), mushrooms, and various sauces.
People also cook “buĺbianiki” (potato pies stuffed with various fillings) and “buĺbianaja babka” (potato pudding). Pig guts can be stuffed with grated potato and then fried. Boiled potatoes are eaten unpeeled, as ‘saloniki’ (eaten with salt) while stewed potatoes are called ‘tušanka’ or ‘smažaniki’.
Cabbage, carrot, peas, beans, and radishes are typical of Belarusian cuisine.
“Sačni” are pancakes made with flour, given various fillings, while fried ‘skavarodniki’ are made from vinegar dough, and eaten instead of bread.
Among flour and cereal dishes, the most popular are “zacirka” (boiled dough, with milk or fat added); “kliocki” (boiled dough, served with pork rind and onion, fried in fat); “kulieš” (porridge from barley pea or bean flour); and “kulaha” (porridge from rye or wheat flour and malt, served with honey or berries).
According to the proverb, there’s no tastier fish than tench and no tastier meat than pork. Pork, beef and veal are widely used in Belarusian cuisine, while fried fat is the desired dressing for various flour and potato dishes. Homemade sausages tend to be made of pork, while ‘viandlina’ is lightly smoked ham or pork loin.
Traditional meat dishes include “piačysta”: boiled, stewed, or fried cuts of young pig, rabbit or poultry or a large piece of pork or beef. Meanwhile, ‘vierieščaka’ (mačanka) are short ribs and sausages, stewed in water or kvass, brewed with flour, thick sour cream, and onion sauce (as served with pancakes).
“Paliandvica” is baked pork with spices. “Kalduny” (potato pies) are stuffed with minced meat (or other stuffing) and spices.
Mushrooms are often used to garnish and add flavour. For instance, «žaronka» is a meat dish stewed with vegetables and mushrooms, while “kapusnik” is a cabbage soup with mushrooms.
It should be noted that the most traditional national Belarusian dishes don’t use special ingredients. Rather, it’s the way that dishes are made that’s important: roasting, boiling and stewing. Semi-liquid and semi-thick dishes are traditional for Belarusian cuisine, and serving dishes are often made from clay earthenware.
There are 12,179 cafes and restaurants operating at present in Belarus, seating 763,000. Of these, 7,599 are located in public places.
Restaurants serving Belarusian traditional food offer not only peasant cuisine of the Belarusian countryside but also elaborate dishes served to Belarusian magnates.
Traditional dishes are served at farmsteads that use only fresh farm produce to make the dishes which are often common only for a particular area. Here they bake bread to old recipes and technologies, cook homemade meat delicacies, cheese from cow or goat’s milk, and sweets made of honey, apples, and cranberries.
For many centuries honey has been the main dessert for the Belarusians. Solodukha (malt dough), kulaga (a thick beverage made from berries, flour, sugar, and honey), and baked apples also were popular.
The recipes that are famous in Belarus include sweet pancakes with cottage cheese gravy and pears a la Radziwill.
Today the most popular desserts are:
- ice-cream, whipped cream;
- fruits and berries (apples, pears, bilberry, cranberry, strawberry).
Popular Drinks in Belarus
Kvass is a popular non-alcoholic drink, coming in several varieties: “biarozаvik” is kvass from birch juice, while “klianovik” uses maple juice, and “miadavucha” is made from honey, with fermented berries and herbs. “Zbicień” is a hot drink from honey and spices.