Weirdest Eastern European foods you should try at least once
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As a native Estonian living in London and constantly travelling around the world, I realize that the definition of ‘weird’ varies across the board.
Asian food seems weird to Europeans, while Europeans consider their food to be normal. But there’s a part of Europe where people are used to dishes that seem strange even to the rest of Europe.
I’m talking about Eastern European food, which I personally love. Well, most of it.
Herring under a Fur Coat
One of the strangest combinations of ingredients can be found in the most popular Russian salad commonly known as Herring under a Fur Coat, or Dressed Herring.
Somehow Russians and their neighbours (Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania) find it tasty to have a layer of chopped herring mixed with onions at the bottom of a plate covered with layers of grated boiled beetroot, potato and carrot.
Now, The key idea is to smear mayonnaise thoroughly on each layer. Beetroot goes on top thus giving the dish the look of a dessert. But it is so not!
You probably heard about borscht. It’s a national Ukrainian soup. Again, it’s main component is beetroot, it also contains beef and other vegetables and herbs. But good borscht is quite a lot of work.
While on a hot sunny day all you want is a quick refreshing lunch.
And here’s what Eastern Europeans came up with.
They just take boiled beetroot, grate it. Then add grated cucumbers and onions. And just add cold water! Thanks to beetroot the mixture immediately becomes purple.
It is then served with a boiled egg, sour cream and fresh dill. Sometimes they put boiled or fried potato as a side.
There’s not much I can say about it. It’s just a piece of fatback, salted and chilled. It is then sliced and served with bread and chives or onions.
It is widely used as a snack when drinking vodka, because fat slows down the speed at which alcohol absorbs into the bloodstream.
Meat jelly (Kholodets)
When foreigners first see meat jelly they are so confused that it’s hard to explain them that it’s actually food.
It has a long and complicated cycle of preparation: first you have to boil the meat for about 4 hours. It has to be some part of a pig or a chicken with lots of bones – like pork legs or chicken neck. Sometimes they use pig ears and beef tails as they also contain a lot of jellying material.
Salt, pepper and some herbs are added at the end of cooking. Then you have to separate meat from bones – and that’s when the hard work begins.
I remember as a little girl I was helping my Granny in the kitchen. And this process was a nightmare to me and it also took about an hour or so!
Then you have to chop all the meat, mi it with the broth it was boiling in and put it if the fridge until it turns into jelly.
One more jelly-like thing people like to put in their mouth in Eastern Europe is Kissel.
And it is considered a drink. While in fact it’s just a fruit jelly made of boiled fruits or berries with starch.