Potato is one of the most versatile and popular plants on Earth. Once a sole privilege of the Inca Indian in Peru, this root vegetable got its breakthrough in the late 16th century and eventually became the fourth leading food crop on the market after corn, wheat, and rice. You can hardly find a nation that doesn’t eat potato. While some countries restrain from overindulgent into this starchy plant, others go all overboard. Belarus stays ahead of the world. With yearly consumption of almost 180 kg (397 lbs) per capita, this Eastern European country has forever put potato at the center of its cuisine. And as it becomes crystal clear, the amount of potato dishes in Belarus is endless.
History of Belarusian Potato Dishes
Such devotion to this starchy plant came out of necessity rather than love from the first bite. For centuries, the Belarusians used locally grown food tor survival. Potato was brought to Belarus from the Netherlands in 19th century and almost instantly became one of the most popular crops in the country.
As the time passed, the Belarusians were getting more creative with their now signature plant and continuously developed new ways of preparing potato. Over 300 potato dishes exist in Belarusian cuisine today. Potato is not just a plant anymore. It is “the second bread” and quite often the main food at the table. There is hardly a day without any kind of potato dishes for an average Belarusian. Neighboring nations has been noticed such obsession with this plant and nicknamed the Belarusians “Bulbyashi” (a derivative from the word “bulba”, which means “potato” in the Belarusian language).
Even with the current trend of “a world without borders” and influence from different cuisine, this starchy root hasn’t lost its value. Different kind of potato dishes is served everywhere around the country. If you ever decide to visit Belarus, make sure to join the feast and try some of these six traditional potato dishes.
Here are 6 Belarusian Potato Dishes You Have to Try:
Draniki or simply potato pancakes are some of the most popular potato dishes in Belarus. As some theories suggest, this recipe was borrowed from Western and Northern European traditions such as Switzerland, German, and Norway. The method of cooking draniki is very simple. All you need is grated potato, onion, salt, and enough vegetable oil to fry them until golden brown. Kids like to have them sweet and after putting fair amount of butter and sugar, roll them up, and eat. Draniki are usually served with sour cream. In some recipes, it’s not uncommon to add ground pork or mushroom. Since this is a heavy potato dish due to the use of a lot of oil for frying, the best time to eat draniki is usually in the morning or early afternoon.
Depending on the method of cooking, babka is another favorite breakfast choice or hearty family dinner. “Morning” babka asks for potato dough consisted of grated potatoes, meat, salt, and onion. You need to mixed all ingredients well, pour them into a greased frying pan, and bake in an oven from 40 to 60 minutes. “Dinner” babka asks for the same ingredients. However, rather then baking, you typically fry this variation of the dish on the stove over low heat. The finished dish is served on its own or with sour cream on the side.
The word “Kalduny” literally means “sorcerers”, “warlocks” and has nothing to do with potato dishes. Nevertheless, for centuries in Belarusian cuisine, it has been linked to small dumplings with a stuffing of meat or mushrooms. Originally, kalduny were made of unleavened dough. The growing demand of the “new” plant, though, led to some modification in the recipe when grated potato replaced the flour-based dough. Today, kalduny is not the most popular dish on menus of Belarusian restaurants. However, their popularity as traditional family meal has barely diminished.
Kletski is another controversial potato dish in Belarusian cuisine. Originally, it came from Poland and didn’t have any trace of potato in it, what’s so ever. The recipe, however, was constantly evolving, incorporating familiar ingredients that suited the spirit and lifestyle of the Belarusian nation. Soon potato took place of the flour gibing birth to the traditional Belarusian kletski. Usually, the dish consists of small potato balls boiled in water or milk. Some recipes though include meat and onion. The Belarusians eat kletsi as soup or as main meal with sour cream on top.
Unlike other full-fledged Belarusian potato dishes, tsibriki is a favorite snack that goes well with beer. The simplicity of the recipe also plays a big role in such popularity. Just put cheese filling in grated potatoes, roll it in flour and sautéed in lard or vegetarian oil. Top it with sour cream and you have one of the traditional Belarusian potato dishes prepared in just a few minutes.
Tukmachi is rather a regional dish popular in the southwest of the county. However, you can find some variations of the original recipe throughout the whole republic. But only in Kobrin it meets centuries-old cooking standards. The crucial ingredient of tukmachi is pre-fried in lard onion that is later added to a potato casserole. This simple vegetable completely transforms the familiar dish, enhancing it with flavor and rustic taste. Tukmachi are almost always served with salted curd or milk.
It’s Time to Grab a Bite
Looking at Belarusian food history, such love to potato and any kind of potato dishes doesn’t come as a surprise. Cheaper than other staple foods, potato became the main ingredient in many recipes. Draniki, kalduny, klitski, tsibriki, and tukmachi are just the tip of the iceberg that seems to grow bigger and bigger every year.