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What Is Solyanka?

H. Bliss
By H. Bliss
Updated May 16, 2024
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Solyanka is a salty and spicy stew eaten mainly in Russia and the Ukraine. This brothy, stew-like dish usually features either meat, fish, or mushrooms. Though all three types are dishes called solyanka, each is unique. Vegetables in this dish usually include cabbage or sauerkraut, tomatoes, and onions, but it may also contain olives or pickles. Solyanka is commonly flavored with lemon zest or lemon juice and is often found served with a slice of fresh lemon on the side.

The most popular variety of this dish in the Ukraine, meat solyanka usually contains cooked beef, chicken, or pork, sometimes in the form of ham or sausage. To make this type of solyanka, the vegetables and meat are cut into small pieces, mixed with herbs, and added to cream that has been warming in a pot. Broth is then added to the pot, which is allowed to slowly warm before the dish is served, usually in a bowl. This dish is often served with a high-fat sour cream known as smetana.

While Ukrainian versions of this dish most often contain meat from land animals, most fish solyankas are eaten in Russia. The most common types of fish used in a fish solyanka are trout, sturgeon, and salmon, but it can also be made with a mixture of multiple types of fish. Freshwater crayfish, a small, lobster-like crustacean, can also be used in this soup. Usually, this dish is flavored with a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving.

Mushroom solyanka is considerably different from the fish and meat versions. It is made by building layers of buttered breadcrumbs and sauteed tomato paste and cabbage with mushrooms, then baking the dish. Since it is made with carefully constructed layers of sauteed cabbage and mushrooms, the mushroom variety is in some ways like a brothy lasagna with no cheese.

Some variations on this dish include fish. Mushroom solyankas are commonly garnished with mushrooms and green olives. Though it is not the traditional way to make the mushroom version of this dish, some cooks prepare solyanka in the meat or fish style, but they use mushrooms instead of the meat or fish as a main ingredient. To keep it a vegetarian dish, mushroom solyanka is usually made with vegetable or mushroom broth.

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