Typical Ukrainian borscht is traditionally made from meat or bone stock, sautéed vegetables, and beet sour (i.e., fermented beetroot juice). There are dozens of recipes for the soup because it's cooked in so many places. But the classic version uses beetroot, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and pork or beef.
So how do Russian and Ukrainian borsch differ?
First, the broth. It is generally considered that Russian borsch is based on beef bone broth, and Ukrainian on pork ribs, but that distinction is tentative to say the least. Borsch can be cooked in chicken broth or water. Svekolnik, for example, is generally based on kefir (fermented cow’s milk).
Second, the cabbage. Some chefs write that sauerkraut predominates in the Russian version, which is added at the start so that it becomes soft, while the Ukrainian version prefers fresh cabbage added at the end of the cooking process so that it remains chewy; still others ditch the cabbage, asserting that beans are the be-all and end-all of borsch. As for Belarusian borsch, that is likely to be served with potatoes.
Third, the beet variety. Those in the know say that beet used for vinaigrette should not be added to borsch, because it won’t give the desired color.
And, most important of all, the extra ingredients! Modern chefs in whatever country often add tomato paste with carrots, onions and beetroot to make their borsch juicier and brighter. Meanwhile, borsch traditionalists remain staunchly anti-tomato. Some like to add vinegar, lemon and sugar (yes, straight in the soup!), cook the broth with unpeeled onion, or use pork scratchings as well as meat.
nterestingly, the easiest way to distinguish the origin of borsch is by the way it is served: most often, Russian borsch is served with black (rye) bread, and Ukrainian with garlic pampushka rolls; Belarusian borsch is sometimes additionally decorated with herbs and half an egg. But it’s not an exact science.