Borscht is a soup dish of Ukrainian origin that has widespread use in several European cuisines, especially those of Eastern and Central Europe. In these regions, which include the countries of Russia, Belarus, Poland and Ukraine, the main ingredient is usually beetroot. However, in some of these countries, tomatoes are used as a primary ingredient while beetroot is a secondary ingredient. As with all foods across the world, there are many variations and adaptations of the original Ukrainian borscht. Some variations do not include any beet at all. The two main types of Ukrainian Borscht are hot borscht and cold borscht. The preparation and serving style of both types is different, although both varieties are beet based.
Hot borscht is the most popular variety in most cultures. It is a filling soup that is usually made with pork or beef broth. In addition to beets, the soup usually consists of potatoes and other vegetables such as carrots or peppers that are cooked together in the broth. Sometimes served as the main course, hot borscht is usually served as a soup before the meal. It is frequently served with rye bread.
In many culinary customs of Eastern Europe, borscht is often served cold. Cold borscht is made with beets that are boiled in water with their leaves. Once the broth has cooled down, sour cream, buttermilk or yogurt can be added depending on individual preferences. After the addition of dairy, raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers and radishes are added. The final step is garnishing the soup with herbs such as dill or parsley. Sometimes, hard-boiled eggs are also added to the cold borscht.
While borscht is primarily and traditionally a Ukrainian dish that is prepared according to the methods described above, there are quite a few Polish varieties of borscht as well. Polish borscht is usually a soup made with beetroots, garlic and onions and a range of other vegetables such as carrots and celery. The ingredients are cooked together for a while. Once cooked, the broth is strained to leave a clear soup. Sometimes, bacon is added to give the clear soup a smoky taste. In another variation of Polish borscht, the vegetables are not strained out and meat is added. This is then served as the main course during lunch. Vegetarian borscht is traditionally served at Christmas eve dinners, where it is served as a starter with dumplings.
Other Varieties of Borscht
Besides the cuisines of Europe, borscht variations are found in international cuisines. In China, it is called red soup and is especially common in the northern areas of the country which are in closer proximity to Russia and have a history of trade with Russia. However, in China, the red color is derived from red cabbage or tomatoes as the Chinese variation does not include beetroot. There is a range of restaurants, many of which are owned by people of Eastern European descent, which serve different variations of borscht. A taste of the soup at a number of these restaurants would allow you to sample the different variations and identify the similarities and difference of each version of borscht.