Belarusian dining is very rural and “stick to the ribs” food, with a focus on simple things like potatoes and pork.
You can see this in the menus and attitudes towards food in countries around the world – take Belarus, for example. The food the Belarusian people has evolved to a high point of gourmet complexity, and you can happily dine your way through the country and call it a great vacation. But the items on that menu still reflect the hard times.
The Second Bread
Much like Ireland, Belarus is a country that has relied on the humble potato for much of its history. The potato is still called “the second bread” in Belarus, reflecting its prominence in the Belarusian diet. The potato is, in fact, a rather amazing food. Easy to grow, hardy enough for a wide variety of climates, and proven to be incredibly nutritious (studies have shown that a diet consisting solely of potatoes and milk actually gives a person all of the dietary necessities). It’s no wonder that a country would embrace this tuber with gusto – and Belarus has!
There are, in fact, “potato cafés” in Belarus that specialise in dishes made primarily with potatoes. If you ever find yourself in one, I would recommend you order the draniki, which are thick pancakes made from shredded potatoes – delicious!
The Other White Meat
In Belarus, Pork is perhaps the most popular meat on the menu. Not only are a huge number of traditional dishes made with pork, but pork fat is used as an ingredient in a large number of dishes as well. One of the most famous and most delicious meals you can order in a Belarusian restaurant is Pyachysta, traditionally a holiday dish but something you can enjoy all year round. Pyachysta is suckling pig, boiled or stewed (sometimes roasted) and served with potatoes (of course) and other vegetables, often carrots.
Belarus has a strong agricultural and farming culture; about 90% of the country remains forested and undeveloped, and the rural culture dominates, especially in cuisine. Recipes typically call for whole milk, fresh vegetables, and meat from cows, pigs, or birds – and fish. Fishing is a national past-time in Belarus, and plenty of fish pulled from the rivers that criss-cross the country. For fish, Belarusian keep it simple, boiling or poaching and keeping the seasonings simple and spare.
As I said, if you’re planning a trip to Belarus, plan a dining adventure! While you can enjoy the cuisine of any country you visit, Belarusian meals are particularly heart and wholesome – and I encourage you to find out for yourself.