Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer? Time for Shashlik

In the same way that Americans think of hamburgers and hotdogs as summertime, picnic food, Ukrainians think of shashlik.  Shashlik is what Americans call shish kebab,  marinated meat on a stick (I can hear Anthony Bourdain, who wasted his trip to Ukraine,  raving about meats on sticks in other places, but I believe he missed the Ukrainian version).  You can order in restaurants and in Simferopol,  we even found stands selling it in the big outdoor markets (below) but it's really picnic food--even in the rain as my friend Anatoly demonstrates above.
As Barb Wieser's post noted,  Ukrainians are serious about their outdoor food.   And shashlik is one of the most serious,  cooked, as in grilling in this country, most often by men. Of course, the recipes are as varied as the people who cook it.  Here's one, via the Everything About Ukraine website, supposedly from a famous Georgian singer:
The meat (he uses either beef or mutton) should be absolutely fresh. Cut it into medium sized pieces and mix with onion, salt and black pepper. Onto this, he pours "Adzhika" (a garlicy, hot pepper sauce). But never adzhika bought in a store, he insists, only the homemade kind sold in the bazaars. Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice to this (the more the better!) Then let it all sit for half an hour. The "secret" of this recipe is to use dried grape vines for the grill. That gives a unique, piquant flavor to the shashlik.
 It's not surprising that a Ukrainian website features recipes from Georgia, as shashlik is found all over the former Soviet Union and usually attributed to the cooks of the Caucausus region.  According to Glenn R. Mack and Asele Surina in Food Culture in Russia and Central Asia it is the national dish of not only Georgia (called mtsvadi),  Armenia (khorovats) and Azerbaijan (kebab) despite the fact that the words shasklik and kebabs are both of Turkic origin.

Whether it's along a riverbank over a campfire;  outside at your dacha,  or in the market at Simferopol,  shashlik symbolizes a relaxed,  yet important,  summer approach to a meal.  To accompany Anatoli's cooking in the top photo,  I remember new potatoes sliced in half with a piece of salo and plenty of salt,  wrapped in foil and cooked in the coals.  They were a delicious accompaniment to the meat from the grill, and together the  makings of a memorable meal with Anatoli and Anya,  and Anya's parents at their dacha on a warm May evening.


  1. Shish kebab is most delicious and loved by most of the US people.

  2. > Ukrainians think of shashlik

    It seems odd to start writing about Ukrainian shashlyk and then list Georgian recipes. Could you post some Ukrainian variants of the shashlyk recipes (like for that sauce)? Thanks!

  3. Anonymous--thanks for your comment. I couldn't find a written Ukrainian recipe for shashlik, because it seems that, like the same way pizza is from Italy, but eaten widely in America, shashlik is from the Caucauses, but eaten widely in Ukraine. One of the things I enjoy about food in Ukraine is the variety of cultural influences. Adjika is also Georgian, and I've had mostly the commercial variety (which is good) in Ukraine, but a little web research led me to this recipe for a homemade version: If you try it, let us know!