Shashlyki tradition

I have no idea how, but apparently my [lack of] SEO skills (that's Search Engine Optimization for all you, normal non-blogging folk out there) did not prevent my Ukrainian dacha post from ranking second in Google search results for the said term. I wrote about visiting our friends' dacha while I was in Kiev for Euro 2012 finals and that post has been drawing a steady number of readers, including an author that reached out to me for some help with his new book, part of which takes place at, you guessed it, a Ukrainian dacha! So today, I figured I would expand on another USSR-wide tradition - that of shashlyki, a meat dish vaguely similar to (and sometimes confused with) shishkabobs.  After all, frying up some shashlyki with friends after a long day working at your dacha is pretty much a given, and I touched briefly on that in my dacha post:

Shashlyki are ready - bon appetite!

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

While embraced all around the former Soviet Union countries, shashlyki originated from the Caucuses, and Georgia in particular is considered to be the place to go for some of the original recipes. And just like any popular dish, pretty much everyone has their own recipe for it. Still, the basics are the same - the meat is cut up into sizable chunks, marinated (usually overnight) together with some onions and then put tightly onto shampury (metal rods) to be fried up over scorching hot wooden coals.

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - katja

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - Dad setting up shashlyki

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - Dad setting up shashlyki - on the fire

When I was a kid, shashlyki were far from an every day occurrence in my family. We probably had it once or twice a year and since we did not have a dacha, we would usually make them at the woods nearby. Back then it took us about half an hour to get there and another 15 minutes or so wondering the woods before we would get to one of our favorite spots. Today, there is a subway station right next to the woods so I doubt it is as secluded these days... but we digress.

I remember the excitement of gathering up the wood, chopping up some fallen birch trees, and setting up a small fire to get the coals read. I even remember one time when we got everything setup and then realized that we didn't bring any matches with us. With no boyscout training, it didn't look good but somehow we ran into some other people that spared some matches for us.

Attending the fire at an outing earlier this year

Normally we would hang out and play some games while the fire did its job making all those coals.

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - Dad setting up shashlyki - middle school outing

And then it was more waiting for the meat to slowly roast over the coals.

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - waiting

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - waiting

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - waiting

And while we are waiting, it is probably worth mentioning two different ways shashlyki are usually cooked. Since childhood, I am more used to setting up an open fire in the woods and then roasting the meat above it. Another way, usually used at dachas and commercially is to burn the wood in large metal boxes (with holes on the sides for airflow) and then layer shampury on top:

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - coals

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - roasting

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - at the market

Either way is fine, however using a standard grill, omnipresent at all picnic areas in the US is not!

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - herecy

And when shashlyki are done, well, it's time to kick of the feast!

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - done

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - served

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - grab on

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - yum

Russia Ukraine Georgia make shashlyki - not much changed

And here's to the hope of continuing this fine tradition when we hit up Hot Springs National Park this weekend!

* wink * wink * mom!

Traveldima