Potato is one of the most versatile and popular plants on Earth. Once the 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 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 at first bite. For centuries, the Belarusians used locally grown food tor survival. Potato was brought to Belarus from the Netherlands in the 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 on the table. There is hardly a day without any kind of potato dishes for an average Belarusian. Neighboring nations has 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 influences from different cuisine, this starchy root hasn’t lost its value. You can find different kinds of potato dishes 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. The method of cooking of draniki is very simple. All you need is grated potato, onion, salt, and enough vegetable oil to fry them until golden brown. Draniki are usually served with sour cream. Kids, however, like to have them sweet and after putting fair amount of butter and sugar, roll them up and eat. Some recipes also ask for ground pork or mushroom. Since it is a heavy potato dish, 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 grated potatoes, meat, salt, and onion. You need to mix all ingredients well, pour them into a greased frying pan, and bake in an oven from 40 to 60 minutes. “Dinner” babka uses the same ingredients. However, rather than 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 the 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 traces 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 the potato took over the flour, giving 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 make balls from the grated potatoes with cheese filling, roll them in flour, and sauté in lard or vegetarian oil. Then top them with sour cream, and you have one of the traditional Belarusian potato dishes prepared in just a few minutes.
Tukmachi is a regional dish popular in the southwest of the county. Nevertheless, 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 its flavor and rustic taste. Tukmachi are almost always served with salted curd or milk.
Belarusian Potato Dishes: It’s Time to Grab a Bite
Looking at Belarusian food history, such love of the potato dishes doesn’t come as a surprise. Cheaper than other staple foods, the 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.