Grocery Guide

Meatless Mondays: How to Make (and Shop For) Borscht

This Eastern European soured soup can be served hot or cold (which helps in a Houston summer).
This Eastern European soured soup can be served hot or cold (which helps in a Houston summer). Photo by liz west

Houston is a mosaic of cultures, and its cuisine reflects that. With that in mind (and in honor of Meatless Monday), each week we’ll explore a new globally inspired vegetarian or vegan dish, and take a look at where to find its ingredients in Houston; discover other Meatless Mondays here.

This week we’re traveling to Eastern Europe with the Tsar of all soups: borscht.

Borscht is a sour soup popular in Eastern Europe and seen in cuisines ranging from Russian, Polish and Ukrainian to Ashkenazi Jewish. It is commonly made with stock, vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, potatoes and onions, and the star of the show — beetroots, which give it its signature bright red-pink color. The tart soup can also be made green, using sorrels as its main ingredient; or white, using soured rye flour.

It can be served hot or cold, but either way, it is usually found topped with another Eastern European staple, smetana (soured heavy cream), in addition to things like hard-boiled eggs and dill.

While you could hit up your local H-E-B and find beets and regular old sour cream pretty easily, you could also take this opportunity to hit up one of Houston’s gems, Russian and European grocery and deli Golden Grain, 5406 Birdwood.

There, you’ll find authentic smetana, which is made with more milk fat than the sour cream typically sold in the U.S. You’ll also find a playground of Eastern European culinary delights. Stock up on smoked fish, salamis, cheeses and breads; discover hard-to-score European wines, beers and teas; treat yourself to a wealth of caviar; bring home prepared foods like herring salad, blintzes, Russian dumplings and stuffed cabbage; and satisfy your sweet tooth with candies, chocolates, and Napoleon and Kiev cake. You’ll even find matryoshka dolls (Russian nesting dolls).

But back to the soup. Many borscht recipes call for meat stock, so for a fully vegetarian version, try this one; and be sure to top with a dollop of your newly acquired smetana.
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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano