Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Shangri-La in Barabashova Market

While visiting the vast maze that is Barabashova Market here in Kharkiv we knew somewhere down one of the isles was a Vietnamese restaurant that we had heard good things about.  Much like Shangri-La it would be an impossible journey to a paradise that, although it was there, could be impossible to find.  But wouldn't you know it, it look about five minutes of random twists and turns down the aisles before Laura said "I think that's it."  If pressed, neither of us would have been able to retrace our steps to find it again.  

The lower level functions as an Asian market but when you make your way upstairs there was, for lack of a better word, a "cafe court" of food that is very difficult to find in Ukraine.  There were windows that sold Chinese and Indian dishes but we went for the Vietnamese windows.  

The ordering processes was that you would walk up to the window and a Vietnamese women standing on your side of the window would help you with the order [the women in the black shirt in the below photo].  She would then shout it through the windows to the cooks in the back.  A Ukrainian woman would then bring you the food once it was ready.

Laura went with Pho soup which she would often order when we lived in Seattle.  

 I tried a chicken dish which had a hint of curry spices.

And we also had communal rice and cabbage salad to share.  

It was all delicious and the best Asian dishes we've had abroad.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Piece Of Kharkiv Found In America

In my postings about the city I live in I spell it "Kharkiv" which is the Ukrainian spelling.  You can also find it spelled as "Kharkov", as in the football team Kharkov Metalist, which is the Russian spelling.  In translating from the cyrillic spelling you could also simplify the spelling to simply "Karkov."  I bring this up because while we were back in America for Christmas I stumbled upon Karkov brand Vodka.  

The image on the front of the bottle sort of resembles Blagoveschensky Cathedral here in Kharkiv...

...but as you can see it's not quite the same.

When we found the bottles on the shelves Laura and I looked at each other and said "there is no way that this was made in Kharkiv" and sure enough it was bottled right there in Minnesota and so they have only adopted our town's name for their brand.

Karkov Vodka has the reputation of being the "college student's vodka" as bottles are often the cheapest vodka you will find on the liquor store shelves...and of course they also had a mini size too.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Deli 2.0

Back in November I highlighted a deli by my house in Kharkiv and while in Kiev we saw one that takes it to the next level.  Here we have some hardcore Ukrainian dishes including this smoked fish:

My challenge still stands for my American friends out there to identify any of these dishes [pickles excluded!].

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Double Shot of Latvia

Quite a while ago Laura and I went out for fondue in Kharkiv.  It was the first time I had been to a fondue restaurant although we've done homemade fondue several times at home.  

We choose Blue Cheese and  Gruyere as our cheeses for dipping...

...and we also had a bunch of french bread and a meat platter as well.  

While we were enjoy our dinner, two women walked over to our table and asked us in Russian if we had ever tried a drink called Balzams.  We couldn't quite believe it as Balzams is a famous Latvian drink that we had recently during our Latvian Independence Day feast.

They told us that they were promoting a new type of Balzams that was mixed with black current juice.  This is typically how Latvians drink what is called a "Hot Balzams" so it seems the company is finally catching up with how people use their product.

The Balzams Girls gave us some free drinks...

...including a mixed drink with Balsams and honey.

Drinking these made us feel like we took a little trip to Latvia...which leads directly to our little trip to Latvia. On our travels back to Ukraine from America during the Christmas holiday we had about a day and a half in Latvia.  This actually turned into a longer stay as the Ukrainian airline we were booked on went bankrupt and cancelled our flights.  In the end, this turned out okay as we were able to stay with Laura's host parents Saiva and Andris.  Laura lived in Latvia with them for the better part of a year during her Fulbright fellowship and they are essentially her Latvian parents!

Our first night in Riga saw them give us a great Latvian dinner which started with a lovely salad.  I haven't had an avocado in I don't know how long.  

The main course included cutlets which are tenderized chicken breasts fried on a skillet...

...and, of course, some potatoes.  Both were excellent. 

For desert we had some lovely cinnamon and raisin cake with...

...a delicious fruit compote.  

In Latvia you always bring some kind of gift to a dinner get together.  We had brought back gifts from America and they gave us some wonderful Laima chocolate.

Monday, February 18, 2013

That Damn Oil Pack In European Ramen Noodles

To anyone who has ever cooked ramen noodles in Europe, why do they even bother with these sunflower seed oil packets?  Have they ever not broken inside the packaging  and spread oil all over the other seasoning pack?  It is one thing about living in Eastern Europe that I will never miss once leaving.  

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jellied Herring and Horseradish Chips

While Laura and I have been on the road and rails this week, I had a chance to watch a lot of the RU Music channel.  When they took a break from the videos of dance-based pop music sung by groups of women and went to commercial, one commercial that was played again and again seeped into my brain.  The video featured a photo shoot with a bunch of models but the guys taking the photo couldn't find the right woman and while this was happening they were eating this new kind of Mayo chips.

Now looking closer at the bag and you'll see the flavor seems to be jellied herring and a cup of mystery pink liquid.  With a little translation help from Laura the bag lets use know that is horseradish.  So with all that, what do the chips look like?

They look like plain old potato chips if you were to look at them through a vacuum sealed plastic bag.  As you would imagine opening them was like opening a can of tuna.  Eating them reminded me of eating a tuna fish sandwich sprinkled with plain chips.  We've all done that right? 

Friday, February 15, 2013

My New Favorite Soup

On these chilly Ukrainian winter days I've found myself ordering this traditional Ukrainian and Russian spicy and sour soup called solyanka.  You can find it  meat, fish, or mushroom variations and all of them have a dollop of sour cream dropped in the middle.  I go with the meat variety typically and you'll sometimes find a piece of lemon or dill floating in the broth as well.  Now to find this in America somewhere.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Domino's [Kiev Style]

Back in December Laura and I visited Kiev and were craving something American and so we decided to stop at a Domino's pizza we had walked by a couple times on our adventures.  The view of the store was pretty amazing:

This Domino's was very new and had a screen letting us know the status of our order.  And Laura's name fit right in with everyone else ordering pizza.

And here it is...real pepperoni and black olives...and not a piece of corn in sight!  

Although we wouldn't normally seek out a Domino's in America, on that cold rainy day the pizza was more than excellent.  

And of course they deliver too... from America just dial 011 + 380 + 44 + 222 + 1111 and it should be there in a few days.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Ukraine is notorious for its copyright laws or lack there of and people often point to the fast food chain of McFoxy as a prime example of how you can basically get away with anything in terms of copying a successful business.  McFoxy famously built a restaurant right next to the McDonald's across from the Kiev train station to much fan fair.  In the end though, McDonald's has not sued McFoxy because they have previously tried suing a coffee retailer called MacCoffee in the Ukrainian courts but lost.

We went to a different McFoxy location in Kiev with full intentions of eating there just to see what the fuss was about but after taking a look at the menu and noticing that each of their burgers seemed to have a mystery white sauce that we couldn't decide exactly what it was, we decided to eat elsewhere.