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Russian borscht with beef and sour cream.

Borscht (also borsht or borshch) is a vegetable soup from Eastern Europe. It is traditionally made with beetroot as a main ingredient[1][2] which gives it a strong red color. Other, non-beet varieties also exist, such as the tomato paste-based orange borscht and the green (zelioni) borscht (sorrel soup).


[edit] Etymology

The soup is a staple part of the local culinary heritage of many Eastern and Central European nations.

It made its way into North American cuisine and English vernacular by way of Jewish, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, and other immigrants. Alternative spellings are borshch[3] and borsch.[4]

It is called in various languages: Czech: boršč, Estonian: boršš, Lithuanian: barščiai, Polish: barszcz, Romanian: borș, Russian and Ukrainian: борщ, borshch, Yiddish: בארשט, borscht.

The name was earlier applied to hogweed soup, and originally to the plant hogweed.

[edit] Hot and cold Borscht

There are two main variants of borscht, generically referred to as hot and cold. Both generally are based on beets, but are otherwise prepared and served differently.

[edit] Hot Borscht

Hot borscht (mostly Ukrainian and Russian), the kind most popular in the majority of cultures is a hearty soup with many common optional ingredients, depending on the cuisine, including various vegetables (beans, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, potatoes, onions, or tomatoes), mushrooms, and meats (chicken, pork, or beef). It is more akin to a stew than most soups, and may be eaten as a meal in itself, usually with thick dark bread.

Pink color of traditional Lithuanian cold borscht. Often eaten with a hot boiled potato, sour cream and dill.

[edit] Cold Borscht

Cold borscht exists in a number of cultures.

[edit] Polish variants

The basic Polish borscht (barszcz) recipe includes red beetroot, onions, garlic, and other vegetables such as carrots and celery or parsley roots. The ingredients are cooked for some time together to produce kind of clear broth (when strained) served as boullion in cups or in other ways. Some recipes include bacon as well, which gives the soup its distinctive, "smoky" taste.

Other versions are richer as they include meat and cut vegetables of various kinds where beetroots aren't the main one (though this soup isn't always called barszcz, but rather beetroot soup). This variation of barszcz isn't strained and vegetable contents are left in it. Such soup can make the main course of obiad (main meal eaten in the early afternoon).

Barszcz in its strictly vegetarian version is the first course during the Christmas Eve feast. It's served with ravioli-type dumplings called "uszka" (lit. "little ears") with mushroom filling (sauerkraut can be used as well, again depending on the family tradition). Typically, this version does not include any meat ingredients, although some variants do.

A key component to the taste of barszcz is acidity. Whilst barszcz can be made easily within a few hours by simply cooking the ingredients and adding vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid; the traditional way is to prepare barszcz several days before and allow it to naturally sour. Depending on the technique; the level of acidity required and the ingredients available, barszcz takes 3-7 days to prepare in this way.

[edit] Romanian borş

The word borş is used in Romanian to refer to a kind of sour soup made from fermented wheat bran, which is an important part of Romanian cuisine. To refer to the traditional borscht made from beetroot, Romanians generally say borş rusesc (Russian borscht) or borş de sfeclă (beetroot borscht).

[edit] Other regional recipes

There are local variations in the basic borscht recipe:

  • In Ukrainian and Belarusian the tomatoes are standard, sometimes in addition with beets. It is usually served with smetana (eastern-European style sour cream) and a traditional accompaniment of pampushki (sing. pampushka), small hot breads topped with fresh chopped garlic.
  • In Polish cuisine, the beets are not standard. Besides the Ukrainian-style beet soup, Polish people enjoy a white Easter borscht. White borshch is made from a base of fermented rye, usually added to a broth of boiled white fresh kiełbasa. It is served hot with cubed rye bread and diced hard-boiled eggs added to the broth, and horseradish is often added to taste.
  • In Russian cuisine, it usually includes beets, meat, and cabbage and optionally potatoes.
  • In East Prussia sour cream (Schmand) and beef was served with the Beetenbartsch (lit. beetroot-borscht).
  • In Lithuanian cuisine, dried mushrooms are often added.
  • In Romanian cuisine, it is the name for any sour soup, prepared usually with fermented wheat bran (which is also called borş), which gives it a sour taste. In fact, the Romanian gastronomy uses with no discrimination the words ciorbă, borş or, sometimes, zeamă/acritură. One ingredient that is required in all recipes by the Romanian tradition is the lovage. Its leaves give a special taste, enhancing the palate experience, which makes the Romanian borş so appreciated by the international travelers.
  • In Armenian cuisine, it is served warm with fresh sour cream.
  • In Doukhobor cuisine, the main ingredient is cabbage, and the soup also contains beets, potatoes, tomatoes and heavy cream along with dill and leeks. This style of borscht is orange in colour, and is always eaten hot.
  • In Hong Kong-style western cuisine, it includes tomatoes instead of beets, and also beef, cabbage, potatoes, bell peppers and carrots. Sometimes chili pepper is added.
  • In Mennonite cuisine, borscht is a cabbage, beef, potato and tomato soup flavoured with dill. This soup is part of the cuisine absorbed by Mennonites in Ukraine and Russia. Mennonite "Summer Borscht" is made with sorrel and is garnished with a cold, boiled egg.
  • In northern Chinese cuisine, particularly found in and around the city of Harbin in Heilongjiang province, an area with a long history of trade with Eastern Russia, the soup known as hóngtāng ("red soup") is mainly made with red cabbage.
  • In mainland China borshch was borrowed as 罗宋汤 Luósòng-tāng via English ("Russian soup"), Luósòng is not the usual Chinese word for "Russia(n)" (usually: 俄罗斯 Éluósī) but borrowed from the English sound, it is identical to the Russian beef-based borshch.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Definition of Borscht by Vladimir Dal (in Russian)
  2. ^ William Pokhlyobkin about borshch (in Russian)
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary
  4. ^ Merriam Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, "borsch" entry

[edit] External links

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