A gift from Kyiv
One of the biggest salburgers was presented at Ukrainian Salo Festival on Nov. 2, 2004.
Salo in chocolate
Salo in Chocolate barAfter borsch and varenyky, salo is the most famous Ukrainian national dish. Around the world, salted pork fat is associated with Ukraine. Some even find it annoying, since there is much more to Ukraine than salo with vodka. While true, we can still pride ourselves in this legendary national product. Most nations use melted salo, or lard, while Ukrainians customarily eat slices of salo with garlic, onion, bread and pickles.
Cultivating salo part of nation's traditionsWhile Ukrainians are not as mad about salo as others think (women who keep an eye on their figure certainly aren’t), it may be fair to say that something like a cult of salo certainly exists in Ukraine. For example, there is an annual championship of salo lovers, “With Love … to Salo,” in Volyn Oblast’s Lutsk. At this year’s championship, the biggest salo sandwich, or Salburger, as it was called, was presented and got included in the Ukrainian Records Book and The Guinness Book of World Records. The Salburger was 28.7 square meters and became the world record for a sandwich. It was made of 105 kilograms of salo, 180 loaves of bread and consisted of 2,200 sandwiches with salo. In a contest of salo eaters, which also was held during the championship, Volodymyr Stryhaniv won by managing to eat one kilogram of salo in 23 minutes.
“A Law about Salo” was proposed by parliamentary deputy Serhiy Teryokhin, a member of the Reforms and Order Party, on April Fool’s Day in 2003. This idea defined the historical mission of salo as humanistic and a social moral guide.
A confectionary plant in Odesa invented “Ukrainian Sneakers,” a bar of chocolate with salo, which was called “Salo v Shokoladi” (“Salo in Chocolate”). Famous Ukrainian film director Oles Sanin recently shot a documentary about Salo. And, of course, there are lots of anecdotes about Ukrainians who love salo more than anything. For example, the one about a Ukrainian student writing in his letter home: “Send me salo, hello mamma!”
Salo health dietAnother joke depicts a conversation about two friends or kums, as they are called in Ukrainian. “Kum, do you know what Russians call our salo? – What? – Cellulite!” This joke refers to the widespread stereotype that salo, consisting of 88 to 94 percent pure fat, is harmful to one's health and may cause obesity and atherosclerosis. “In fact, salo contains only traces of cholesterol that causes atherosclerosis and obesity,” said Valentyn Rybalko, academician and doctor of agriculture science. “One hundred grams of pork has 60 grams of cholesterol, ham has 67, butter has 244 and cod-liver oil has 570.” He has been studying salo for almost 40 years and came to the conclusion that 50 grams of salo a day with fresh vegetables and apple or grape vinegar is not harmful, but rather healthy and helps to remove radioactive nuclides from a person’s system. Salo contains irreplaceable fatty acids. One of them is arachidonic acid, which plays an important part in cholesterol metabolism and helps the heart muscle work. If you put a piece of salo between your cheek and gum, it can cure your toothache. Melted fat is helpful for joint pain and varicose veins. Even a rind of salo is good for memory and increases potency.
Where it came fromA simple historical fact explains why salo became a national treasure in Ukraine. It became popular because the majority of Ukrainian people were poor and could afford meat only during Christmas or Easter, while salo could be salted and used during the whole year. Peasants took salo with bread as their lunch during field work. In past centuries, salo was a very important nutritional element as it could retain its quality for a long time without freezing.
You may be surprised to find that salo was not invented in Ukraine. It was first prepared in the city of Kolonnata on the territory of Italy 3,000 years ago. Slave owners invented a recipe of pork fat with spices and garlic as a cheap and high-calorie meal for slaves, who worked in marble quarries. This famous white marble that resembles human skin was used for antique sculptures, palaces and colonnades. Salo lovers say it was the beginning of salo’s contribution to modern civilization. This Italian lard salted in big marble baths was so delicious that not only slaves but patricians loved it.
Salo marketsNow it must be clear even to skeptics and diet-followers that salo is at least worth trying. The cheapest way to do this is to go to one of the city markets and ask the vendor to give you a piece of salo to try – which is a natural thing to do before buying it. But if you don’t buy anything, no one will be bothered. The Kyiv Post decided to taste salo at Bessarabka, the most expensive and most central city market, naturally offering only the highest-quality homemade salo in Kyiv. And we were right. A pleasant woman handed me a piece of salo with a slice of bread and then held out a towel for me to wipe my fingers. This piece was moderately salted and seemed to melt in my mouth. It tasted very good and nourishing, especially since it was cold outside. One kilogram of salo at Bessarabskiy market (2 Bessarabska Square) is priced from Hr 30 to Hr 50. But these are evening prices. In the morning, the same salo is Hr 60. “You must like it from the first glance. It is the same as with people,” a saleswoman said, teaching me how to choose salo properly. She took a knife and started to stick it into a piece of salo. If the knife sinks deeply into salo, it means this is a mild and high-quality product. When the knife gets stuck, it is not so good. Another vendor told that it’s necessary to try salo along the full length of the piece because it might taste differently in different parts.
When it comes to eating salo the usual way, you can make a sandwich with salo and mustard or use a more complicated recipe. Take 300 grams of salo and rub it with black pepper, paprika, salt and put it in a fridge for a couple days. Then cut it into slices and eat with bread. Another tasty option is to mince salo and mix it with salt, seasoning, garlic and grated carrot. Then spread this paste onto a slice of bread and you will get a quick and nutritious snack.
Salo-Bar and other places to partakeAnother way to try Ukraine’s national “treasure” is at a bar or restaurant. Salo-Bar seemed to be the most radical place to go to experience salo in all its varieties. There you will find an assorted salo plate (Hr 29) which consists of salo with pepper, fresh salo, smoked salo and bacon. Or you can order separately fresh or fried bacon (Hr 19 and Hr 31), fresh and smoked salo (Hr 19) and salo with garlic and herbs for Hr 15. Anyone ordering dinner at Salo-Bar will receive a small snack of minced salo with bread for free.
Naturally, salo can be also found at Ukrainian cuisine restaurants in the city.
For example, at Pervak restaurant, you can try a “Ukrainian Kiss” – freshly salted pork fat stuffed with garlic (Hr 18 for 100 gm). Salo with garlic can be found also at Tsarske Selo (Hr 18) and O’Panas (Hr 14). Minced salo on toasts is served at Penthouse restaurant at Hr 16. Pickled salo on rye bread toasts served with homemade horse radish is proposed at Riviera in Podil (Hr 20). Zamok Vydubychi has toasts with salo and garlic on its menu as well (Hr 8).
Fried salo or “shkvarky” (cracklings – little fried bits of salo) is an obligatory element of other national dishes such as varenyks, borscht and baked potatoes. O’Panas restaurant even has varenyks with cracklings. At Dukhmyana Pich, varenyky with potatoes and mushrooms (Hr 21) and with meat (Hr 25) are served with cracklings, fried onions and sour cream. Cracklings are also often served with deruny (potato pancakes), which are fried at Penthouse restaurant for Hr 13.
Ukrainian borsch with mashed salo, garlic, herbs and pampushky (Hr 30) is a pride of Riviera in Podol. There are potatoes baked with bacon and beans (Hr 24) at Pervak, baked potatoes with salo (Hr 24) at Tsarske Selo, and potatoes with bacon and onions at O’Panas (Hr 14) and Trypillia (Hr 36).
Salo in ChocolateThe aforementioned Salo in Chocolate can be ordered at Tsarske Selo for Hr 18 – you’ll find it at the top of the dessert menu. The receipt is an invention of the restaurant’s chef Andriy Valenchuk. Salo is cut into small strips and hot chocolate is poured over it. These bits are served on skewers with Baileys liqueur. Surprsiginly, the secret technology used by the chef allows to create a harmonious tasty dish out of sweet chocolate and salty salo. According to Valenchuk, you would not know the dessert contained salo unless you were told.
Salo-Bar (5 Anri Barbyisa, 8(096)341-4040)
Pervak (2 Rohnidynska, 235-0952, 246-7784)
Tsarske Selo (42/1 Sichnevoho Povstannia, 288-9775, 280-3066)
O’Panas (10 Tereshchenkivska, 585-0523, 235-2132)
Dukhmiana Pich (4 km of Novoobukhivska route, Lisnyky village, 406-3673)
Penthouse (58 Chervonoarmiyska, 289-4682, 289-4394)
Riviera on Podil (15 Sahaydachnoho, 581-2898)
Fortetsia (21 Prospect Radyanskoyi Ukrainy, 463-5130)
Zamok Vydubychi (5 Naberezhno-Pecherska, infront of Vydubychi monastery, 525-0793)