Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Halushky of Poltava

On Monday Laura and I took the train to Poltava so Laura could do some interviews for her research.  Between meetings we saw the sites which included a monument to a dish attributed to being created in Poltava called Halushky.  They are essentially meat filled dumplings with some sour cream on the side.

Here's the monument which is a popular spot to get your photo taken sitting in the spoon...too bad it was raining on Monday.

For lunch Laura ordered the halushky...

...while I had another type of dumpling dish called Varenyky which is filled with chicken.  Plus, don't forget the sour cream. Both dishes were excellent.

And when we hit one of the local gift shops I couldn't pass up a halushky magnet for $2.50.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Item We've Come To Crave Most

Eight weeks ago before I left America, I didn't eat too much peanut butter...I certainly wouldn't be able to exactly tell you the last time I ate it and I certainly never had a dream about peanut butter.  Flash forward nearly two months and the one item that Laura and I started craving was peanut butter.  Every grocery store we went too had none on the shelf, although we could find Nutella everywhere.  Finally we found a jar of "pate d'arachide" at a grocery store called Class.  It's certainly not Jiff, hell, it's not even generic brand but it will tide us over until Christmas.  One thing is certain though, a large jar of crunchy Jiff is making the return trip to Ukraine 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

As An American Abroad, This Post Was Inevitable

We've seen several different McDonald's while we've been here but we successfully avoided going to one for several weeks.  It just seemed silly to travel this far just to do something we can easily do in America.  But given enough time, I think each expat American eventually goes to McDonald's no matter how strong with convictions are.

Plus, it's fun to see the condescending smile the Ukrainian McDonald's employees get when they realize they've got a real live American ordering McDonald's in Ukraine in front of them.

I went with a Big Mac and fries.  The highlight of the meal through is the large soda [which I can't believe I forgot to take a photo of].  It's one of the few places that serves cold fountain drinks in sizes above a half liter.

Thank you globalization!  Looks, smells, and tastes just like home.

The fries were just as hot and fresh and you would expect.

Ketchup comes in their own individual packets and cost about 50 cents each.  

Laura likes getting the cheese sauce for her fries that I don't believe is available in the U.S.

Thus ends my contractually obligated expat McDonald's post.  Let me conclude with a reminder of Thomas Friedman's important international discovery: that no two countries that have McDonald's have ever gone to war with each other.   So really by eating lunch I was taking part in important Ukraine/U.S. relations.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chicken In A Pot

Today's dish is called "Chicken In A Pot" and it was a nice mix of chicken and vegetables with a hind of curry flavoring.  It is then baked in the pot itself which was hot to the touch throughout the meal.  This was apart of what Laura and I joke about as our $50 lunch.  We ordered our main dishes and then the waitress asked if we wanted bread with our meal.  We looked at each and other and said "sure" as some bread would go well with my chicken dish.  

"Would you like a salad?" was the next question.  We looked at each other and we both thought that would be a nice too.  

All goes well with the meal and when we get the bill we discover that the bread and salads were more than our two main entrees put together.  All we could do was look at each other with raised eyebrows at our "American prices" and although the food was good, we will never go there again.   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

La Cucaracha

In our initial exploration of Kharkiv the most intriguing restaurant we spotted was a Mexican bar and grill called La Cucaracha.  Laura has never found a Mexican restaurant in all her years visiting Latvia and so the novelty of East European Mexican food was enticing even if the name of the restaurant made you stop and reconsider your decision.  Nevertheless, it was Friday night and we were hungry, cockroaches be damned!

As we walked down toward the place, I turned to my wife and said, "is that a guy standing outside with a sombrero?"  Sure enough one of the employees was attempting to direct passers by to stop at La Cucaracha.  

Laura went with a burrito which she says can sometimes be a delicate proposition as you are never quite sure what you'll find inside...including the occasional beet!  

I was anxious to try Ukrainian fajitas and so I went with those.  The photo on the right is with a flash and the photo on the right is the lighting as it naturally was.  I felt like I could have developed some film right at my table.  

Here's a closer was heavy on the cilantro but pretty good and nice and spicy.  It was a nice change from the regular meat and potatoes we had been eating.

When we came out about an hour later it had started raining but that hadn't stopped our sombrero-ed friend from doing his duty.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sunflower Seeds

I've written previously about the similarities between Ukraine and Kanas on my travel blog and the longer I'm here the similarities are more and more evident.  Kansas is the Sunflower State and one of major agricultural products grown in Ukraine.  These trinkets we came upon at one of the markets could easily be found on the shelves of the Kansas Sampler.  

Ukraine is also the second largest producer of sunflower seeds, behind Russia, even though Russia is over 28 times larger than Ukraine.  The larger grocery stores here have rows and rows of sunflower seeds and it's clear that they are a staple while in America they are usually the realm of children and professional baseball players.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Ukrainian cuisine reminds me of an episode of The Twilight Zone or, for the more contemporary TV viewer, an episode of Fringe.  It's as if you are transported to a different reality but only one thing is slightly different from your own reality.  For example, this frozen pizza looks and tastes just as you would expect to get from your grocery store in the U.S. but with one thing slightly different, in this case, some corn nestled next to your pepperoni.    

Here's a closer look:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Spaghetti [Ukrainian Style]

One of the first meals I ordered at a Ukrainian cafe was spaghetti.  I fully expected the sauce to be more sweet [that's what I've heard about most of the tomato based products like spaghetti sauce and ketchup].  What I wasn't expecting was finding steak in my spaghetti rather than hamburger.  In fact, finding hamburger turned into a quest for us for a week or two.  

I've had spaghetti again since at a different cafe and again steak.  I'm not complaining, it was just a nice surprise.  

Here's a closer look.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Origin Of A "Marvel With A Mango"

The title "Marvel With A Mango" finds it's inspiration from an episode of the British series Agatha Christie's Poirot.  The episode in particular is from Season 3, Episode 9 called "The Theft of the Royal Ruby."  It is based on the short story "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding" and has Poirot trying to locate a ruby that was stolen from an Egyptian prince.  As Poirot is being introduced to the Lacey family [who's house he will be staying at] there is a wonderful little scene in which Poirot demonstrates how to cut open a mango and avoid the pit inside.  When he produces the cut fruit, Mr. Lacey exclaims "he's an absolute marvel with a mango!"

And so I adopted that title for my food blog as I hope to experience new food adventures that have me exclaiming 'he an absolute marvel with a beet!"

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

That's Not A Šašliks!

This is a šašlik!  Which in Latvian cuisine is the name given to what is basically spiced chicken-on-a-stick and it was great to find some at a local deli. 

Crocodile Dunde would approve of the size of this šašlik I'm sure.