The Kherson region (Khersonshchyna) is a captivating southern region in Ukraine, boasting many picturesque landscapes and fascinating attractions. Among the sights are:
- the renowned Askania-Nova biosphere reserve;
- the Black and Azov Seas shores;
- historical museums;
- the winery named after Prince Trubetsky.
The Kherson region is also known for its unique local cuisine. Because of its diverse heritage, stemming from the coexistence of multiple cultures, Kherson’s culinary traditions effortlessly blend Western and Eastern flavors.
In the late XIX century, many different nationalities lived on the territory of the Kherson region: Greeks, Tatars, Germans, Arabs, and more. Each group brought its customs and cooking secrets. Without certain ingredients, innovative substitutes created new, flavorful dishes that became popular staples. The Kherson region is primarily known for its watermelons and tomatoes, while delicacies like oysters, fish, pheasant, eggplant, and zucchini also flourish.
We invite you to embark on a gastronomic journey through the vibrant Kherson cuisine. Exploring its flavors allows you to immerse yourself in the heart of Kherson’s culinary culture. Discovering and preparing these unique dishes can glimpse the region’s rich heritage.
Bekmes, an oriental dessert, is said to have Turkish roots. Thanks to the exquisite Kherson watermelons, it has found its distinct Ukrainian identity. Bekmes is cooked by evaporating watermelon juice to obtain a thick, luscious liquid. While various fruits, berries, and vegetables are used in other countries, Ukrainian Kherson’s specialty is watermelon.
The simple recipe consists of a single ingredient: watermelon. To prepare, take three watermelons and follow these steps:
- Thoroughly wash and dry the watermelons. Cut them into random pieces in a large bowl, preserving all the juice. Discard the peels and seeds, then strain the pulp through a sieve.
- Squeeze the liquid into a separate pan. To do this, you can use gauze or a blender with a sieve. We put the pan with the juice on the fire and boil it for 2-3 minutes.
- Let the juice cool completely, and then pass it through cheesecloth or a fine sieve again to ensure clarity. Pour the liquid back into the pan and continue to simmer for 3-4 hours until thickened, stirring occasionally and removing foam.
- Once the bekmes has sufficiently thickened, pour it into clean jars and seal. Turn the jars over and wrap them in towels until they cool completely.
The evaporated juice transforms into a thick, long-lasting consistency, retaining its nutritional value and can be preserved for a long time. Bekmes is recommended for those with anemia or other blood disorders. By the way, we also have for an easy recipe for yummy watermelon jam.
Kherson Yushka (Ukha)
Kherson yushka, also known as ukha, is a pride of Ukrainian cuisine, particularly in Kherson. Another important point is that this dish has particular characteristics that set it apart as an accurate representation of Kherson cuisine.
- 500 g various freshwater fish species (such as crucian carp, silver carp, carp, pike, bream, catfish, etc.)
- 2-3 potatoes
- 1 bulb onion
- 2-3 tomatoes
- 10 g dairy butter
- 50 g salo
- 1 garlic clove
- greens – to taste
- parsley root – to taste
- bay leaves – to taste
- black peppercorns – to taste
- salt – to taste
- Prepare fish broth by boiling it with bay leaves and black peppercorns. Simmer over low heat for transparency, remove the fish and strain the broth.
- Add sliced potatoes, finely chopped onions, and parsley root to the broth, simmering for 10-15 minutes. Return fish pieces (skinless and boneless) to broth, add sautéed tomatoes in oil, and cook for another 10-15 minutes.
- Afterward, it’s time to prepare “lyok” – a distinctive sauce essential for making an authentic Kherson yushka. To cook it, melt salo, add grated garlic, and a couple of tablespoons of broth. Serve with chopped parsley and lyok in each plate, or offer the sauce separately.
Notably, a defining feature of Kherson’s fish soup preparation is the addition of alcohol. Many recipes include such an unusual ingredient as a condiment. If you want to discover more tasty fish recipes, enjoy fish solianka with smoked hunchback salmon or Mariupol fish borsch.
Shulyky, shuliaky, lamantsi are pieces of wheat cakes baked in the oven and cooked with poppy seeds and honey. While similar delicacies are found across Ukraine, those from the Kherson region are special. Various versions of their name’s origin exist, with the popular belief that these cakes were dried in the sun, mixed with poppy seeds, and thrown onto large trays, creating the unique sound “shuh-shuh.”
- 260 g flour
- 1 egg
- 50 g dairy butter
- 100 ml milk
- 5 tbsp honey
- 4 tbsp poppy seeds
- 1 tsp soda
- Grind 3 tbsp of poppy seeds in a mortar, add a small amount of boiling water, and leave for half an hour.
- Mix the egg with honey in a bowl. Add 1 tbsp of poppy seeds, and dairy butter, soda, and milk to the mixture. Whisk until smooth.
- Gradually add sifted flour to the poppy seed and egg mixture, stirring constantly. Knead the dough until stiff, then roll it into a 1-2 cm thick layer.
- Place the dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake the shulyak cake for 12-15 minutes at 160° Celsius.
- Cool the finished cake a little and break it into pieces. Add some honey and boiling water to the poppy seed mixture, and then pour over the shulyky with this. Leave the cookies to soak for 20 minutes.
If you’re exploring the Kherson region, take advantage of the opportunity to savor its flavors. Once you’ve experienced the authentic local dishes with their unique blend of ingredients and flavors, you’ll be eager to recreate traditional Kherson cuisine recipes more frequently!