Ukraine has many things to be proud of and one of them is a delicious beetroot soup, better known as borshch.
Praising the culture of Ukrainian borshch cooking, U.S. media CNN listed it among the 20 best soups in the world. The list also includes soups from Africa, Vietnam, France, Portugal and China.
“Chunks of tender beets swim in brilliant red broth for a soup that’s beloved in Ukraine and across Eastern Europe. Often topped with a rich dollop of sour cream, borsch is anything but basic beet soup. It gets a tangy kick from kvass, a lacto-fermented beet juice that’s another regional specialty,” CNN wrote.
Cooked all over the country, the Ukrainian traditional soup has dozens of recipe versions. The classic one includes such basic ingredients as beetroots, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and meat — either pork or beef.
Borshch is not just a dish — it is an apple of discord of Ukraine and Russia. The Russians usually attribute beetroot soup to their national cuisine, but this claim is hotly contested in Ukraine, CNN wrote.
To protect its legacy, Ukraine added borshch to its national list of intangible cultural heritage. It’s an important step ahead of Ukraine’s plan to nominate the culture of Ukrainian borshch cooking for the same kind of list by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO.
To win recognition from UNESCO, Ukraine has to show that borsch is ingrained in its culture and consumed widely.
Although borsch is a beloved dish in both Ukraine and Russia, historians claim that the first mentions of it come from Ukraine.
“Even some Russian culinary historians and authoritative Soviet-era reference books on food place the origin of borscht in Ukraine,” wrote the New York Times. “But after the Soviet Union broke up, Russia seemed to stake more of its own claim to the soup.”
It upsets Ukrainian restaurateur and chef Yevhen Klopotenko who initiated the process of recognizing borshch as local cultural heritage.
“A lot of things were taken away from Ukraine, but they will not take our borscht,” Klopotenko told NYT. “I understood we have to defend what is ours.”