They are needed when the main product is inexpressive (therefore, rice without curry is not so interesting to eat). Odessa products have their own "voice", and there is no need to clog it with spices. The taste of Odessa dishes is rather sweet and salty, than sour and spicy. It's all about the products - just add sweet tomatoes or a slice of watermelon to the slightly salted cheese and get the typical Odessa flavour or add sweetish young potatoes to tulka. Sweet prunes go well with beef stew, while baked bell peppers are served best with fresh goat cheese and a spoonful of honey. But salted milt of the Danube hearing is worth adding on the Borodino bread (sour-sweet) with a little olive oil and onions.


To cook in Odesa manner means to cook thoughtfully, unhurriedly, without fuss. For example, a salad in Odesa is not considered ready when all the ingredients are in one bowl and have been seasoned. Now salad has to rest for half an hour to give the juice – only then it can be served on the table. A truly jeweler’s precision is required while preparing some Odesa dishes. It concerns miniature dumplings, for example, the dough circles for which are cut out with a small glass or stuffed cabbage rolls which have to be the size of a “little finger”.

Odesa cuisine is very harmonious, it is based on a blend of well-combined tastes, and not on the contrast of them. Let different tastes argue with each other in Asian or Mexican cuisine, but not in Odesa cuisine - it is about harmony. And alsoOnce I've decided that my main business would be to popularize Odesa cuisine and the Odesa lifestyle. Since then, I have been collecting Odesa recipes, writing books about Odesa cuisine, maintaining a culinary video blog and making sure that my restaurants retain their Odesa identity. But the most important thing is that I cook every day and, of course, I do it in Odesa style.

How to cook in Odesa style? I am afraid that I cannot give a short answer. I have 3 points and all of them start with the letter "P": Products, Process and Performance.


Ideally, to cook in Odesa style, you need Odesa products. But, perhaps, it may happen, that you will not be able to reach Privoz (main Odesa bazaar) in half an hour, and this will take several days. Then use the products, not from Odesa, but local ones - which grow, swim and run nearby and does not cross the ocean in a frozen form. Turkish eggplants are different from ours - they are no worse or better, just different.

Italians were the first to think of protecting their products according to their origin. For sure you came across the abbreviation DOP - Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin) on the packaging. That means that the product was produced, processed and packaged in a specific region, only here it fully corresponds to its name. In other words, Parma ham can only be made in the province of Parma, elsewhere can be any other ham, but not Parma. Since Odesa citizens are "Ukrainian Italians", it would also be good for them to think about how to preserve their regional products. So, I see the abbreviation DOP on a jar of eggplant paste, for example.

There are products of Odesa origin, and there are Odesa products in spirit. They can be divided into two broad categories: gifts of the sea and gifts of the land. As for the marine life, I would singularize horse mackerel, tulka, goby, flounder, mullet and garfish. "Earthly foods" are, in turn, divided into two categories: meat and vegetables. Lamb and veal - are meat, chicken and rabbit are also always held in high esteem. Vegetables - are eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, garlic and bell peppers. And don't forget about feta cheese, butter and honey.

Spices are minimally present in Odessa cuisine, Odesa citizens stand for diversity: both in life and on the table. It is better to cook several dishes in small portions than a whole bowl of one dish, albeit very tasty. I often repeat that the Odesa table is a mosaic of dishes from different nations, so there is no need to be afraid to go too far with the choice when it comes to Odesa feast.

Like any other regional cuisine, Odesa is entirely woven of nuances. Some of them can be explained, others you can feel while cooking the same dish a dozen times (preferably under the supervision of an experienced cook - a Jewish mother). In Odesa cuisine, no one tries to give a dish an elaborate, tortured taste. The simpler and more natural it will be - is better. But this simplicity is not that simple (sorry for the pun) - it is very delicate and thoughtful.


The Odessa table is densely loaded with plates. The expression "the table is groaning with foods" - is about Odessa. There have to be many different snacks and dishes, then there is a feeling of a rich table, even if each dish can be rather modest. The main dish should be in a large container in the centre of the table for the guests to take the food by themselves - it will be enough for everyone.

The Odesa feast is always colourful concerning food, audience and tableware. As I already said, Odesa cuisine is multinational, and the Odesa table unites different peoples. As for the dishes, they can also be motley - you will not find one tableware for 20 people in any Odesa house. The first Odesa feasts, which I happened to visit, took place in the courtyard of our house, where neighbours brought different dishes and, of course, plates of different sizes and types. There is no need for a special occasion for such a feast - they just got together to talk and have a snack. And accordingly, this courtyard table did not have a festive look, but it was so delicious...

And when a feast came to an end, the leftovers of food were necessarily "take away" packed. And, of course, each family took not what they brought, but something prepared by the neighbours. This culture of gifts in Yiddish is called "shalahmones", which roughly translates as "edible package". This is a treat for relatives who stayed at home (for example, an old grandmother and grandfather), but could not come.