We’re suddenly into hot summer weather here in Ottawa, so perfect for a little Ukrainian dinner al fresco out on the deck. I’m going to try something really Ukrainian: salo.

Salo is cured fatback (like pork belly but mainly fat rather than meat). There’s lots of ways to serve it – cooked into cracklings, mashed with raw garlic, or even included in chocolate (kind of like the bacon chocolate craze a few years back). I’m going to try it the truly classic way: cold of out of the freezer, sliced thin on bread or crackers, and accompanied with vodka, pickles, and other punchy things.

I picked up from Lakomka Deli both plain and smoked salo, as well as several jars of imported Ukrainian goodies from the brand Veres (Верес is Cyrillic, but I still want to call them “bepec pickles”). I’ve got:

  • Beans with mushrooms in tomato sauce
  • Garlic pickles with dill and horseradish
  • Adjika hot sauce
  • Roasted zucchini and tomato sauce with hot peppers

And of course, I served the whole thing with an ice cold glass of Ukrainian vodka, Zirkova One, plus some cherry tomatoes. The salo literally melts in your mouth, and vodka and pickles help cut the richness of the fat. I really love the smoked salo in particular, it’s got a beautiful flavour.

Adjika is actually a Caucasian hot sauce from Georgia, but it’s not surprising that these flavours migrated, probably through the Soviet era. It’s dark and thick, salty and smokey, kind of like a more spreadable gochujang. I ended stirring it together with the zucchini sauce (itself a lot like Balkan ajvar) to spread on top of the salo and that worked wonderfully.

UKRAINE: More snacks

Part 2 of my big box of Ukrainian snacks!

Roshen Lovita Soft Milk cream cookies – Slightly crumbly semi-soft cookies with an extremely sweet milk-flavoured filling. Pretty nice but they make my teeth sing. Milk flavouring in candy is an odd one to pin down – this Eastern European milk flavour is very different from Japanese milk flavour, but they’re both kind of nebulous creamy, and not just what we would call “cream filling” in North America.

Roshen Caramel Bubble chocolate – This is a white chocolate, flavoured with caramel, and filled with bubbles (like an Aero bar). The caramel is very mild, but it’s extremely light and fluffy – it’s a fantastic texture.

Klim Fruit Land – Soft pear and melon jelly candies with a sugar coating. I really love that artificial pear flavour you get in European candy, it’s not very common in North America.

Roshen Dromec – Just plain, simple pear-flavoured hard candy. That’s it. But again, if you like that European pear flavour, this is it.

Roshen Crabs – These were at the heart of a major trademark battle between Roshen and a Russian candy company with a crayfish label back in 2013-2015. It ended with no clear winner, with one design ruled not infringing and the other annulled for being too close – horizontal crabs are ok but not vertical ones. (IP law is wild). The candy is a hard pink and red shell with a soft chocolate and peanut filling that isn’t too sweet.

Crabs vs crabs – Source

Also, is it just me, or are neither actually crabs? They both look very crawfish-y to me.


Understandably, with the active fighting, the refugee crisis, and the war economy, exports from Ukraine have dropped off very quickly in the last two months. I still wanted to try Ukrainian snacks (I try to get exported snacks from every country if possible), so I had to rely on things already exported to Canada when the invasion happened. I put in a big order from Ukreations, a Canadian supplier of Ukrainian snacks, apparel, and handicrafts, and then got a haul from Lakomka Deli, a really good Eastern European grocery here in Ottawa. I’ve got enough for several posts this month (and so much that I’ll be treating coworkers for weeks).

33 Cows sour cream cookies – The English and Ukrainian sides of the wrapper say sour cream, the French and import label just say cream flavoured cookies, so it’ll be a surprise! These are tasty little cookies with the consistency of arrowroot biscuits and a sweet, vanilla, condensed milk flavour – there’s a little bit of a citrusy tang to them too. Smetana it is!

Roshen Karolina Orange Cake – Roshen is a huge snack manufacturer in Ukraine, named after Petro Poroshenko, who came from a classic oligarch background of snapping up state snack companies in Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, that name may be more familiar for a different reason, as Poroshenko was President of Ukraine from 2014-2019. He helped solidify Ukraine’s turn away from Russia and towards NATO/Europe after the loss of Crimea, but also was implicated in huge corruption scandals – and was about to run head to head against Zelenskyy over possibly politically-motivated treason charges in January this year. However, Russia invaded shortly after, and Poroshenko was last seen commanding a military battalion in the Ukrainian defence forces. As for the cookies? They’re identical to Jaffa Cakes: soft cookie, chocolate, tangy orange filling. Very tasty.

Roshen Korivka – I really like the old school wrapper with the pretty flower and cow design. These are soft caramel bars, with an intensely sweet caramel sugary-texture outside and toffee fondant inside. I selling point is that the filling is supposed to stay liquid, but I think it solidified in the long trip to Canada. These are intensely sweet in the “eat a spoonful of sugar” kind of way.

Roshen Crazy Bee – Soft, chewy candies with a jelly filling. Really satisfying texture, and the flavours are all tasty, though it’s a surprise what each one will be, the wrapping is all identical. There’s orange, grapefruit, sour cherry, wild berry, lemon-lime, and strawberry. Too easy to eat the whole bag!

ECUADOR: Snacks and maiz tostado

I really struggled finding exported snacks from Ecuador – I checked multiple Latin and South American groceries in Ottawa and Calgary, plus online. Ecuador is a major food exporter, however, and trip down my local grocery aisle had bananas, mangos, yellow dragonfruit, melons, and more all from there. However, these are generally grown as cash crops for export – about 25% of the world’s banana crop comes from Ecuador. I was hoping instead to find some snacks that were more genuinely “Ecuadorian”.

Ecuadorian cacao – This isn’t an Ecuadorian company, rather it’s a British one that sources high-end cacao from single origins like Ecuador. Cacao used to be Ecuador’s major cash crop (and is an indigenous plant to the region). The country was the main world producer until the market crashed in the early 20th century. Cacao is still grown there, but the focus is on smaller amounts at higher quality. However, Ecuador mainly exports the cacao, it’s turned into chocolate elsewhere. As for this bar itself, it’s just a really nice dark chocolate, with a nice bit of depth from the sea salt.

GuayusaGuayusa is a herbal tea that’s related to yerba mate, and almost the entire world’s guayusa crop is grown in Ecuador. The dried leaves smell very green and herbal. Mild tasting tea, kind of like an earthier green tea, and feels like it should be bitter but isn’t. It’s hard to get an exact comparison for how caffeinated it is, but most sources average it around the strength of black tea, with the upside that unlike tea, it can be steeped for a long time without going tannic and bitter.

Tome Tropical Fresa – I am not 100% certain if this pop is truly Ecuadorian or if it’s something made for the export / ex-pat market – kind of like Brio not actually being from Italy. If you do know, please let me know in the comments! It’s an intensely sweet strawberry-flavoured pop, but with enough acidity to keep it from being too cloying.

And now a snack that’s really Ecuadorian, instead of just an export good (admittedly the corn itself is from a Peruvian brand).

Maiz tostado is a type of Andean popcorn, made with cancha corn (a wide kernel corn variety). It’s also made with chulpe, a slightly thinner variety of corn – they may just be two different sizes for the same thing, since cancha and chulpe seem to get used interchangeably.

Regardless, this is a really fun and easy recipe (from Laylita’s Recipes) – just have a lid handy for when they start to pop! It’s kind of like inside-out popcorn, fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside.

NEW ZEALAND: Even more snacks

The third and final installation of snacks from New Zealand from Kiwi Grub Box! (Parts 1 and 2 are here.)

Bluebird Poppa Jacks – What are Poppa Jacks? The packaging is inconclusive, just “flavoured wheat snacks” with a clown on them. They’re somewhere between a rice cracker and Bissli – crunchy fried puffs with a savoury flavour, almost like … broth? Something quite umami. They’re very different, but quite good.

Fabulicious Green Apple Sherbert Fizz – Two long green tubes, with green apple gummy on the outside, and slightly fizzy tart sherbert on the inside. Sherbert is really uncommon in Canada, which is a shame because I would have been all over these as a kid.

Space Man Fruit Sticks – These ones come in two flavours, banana and raspberry. They’re hard sugar sticks, though a bit less chalky and slightly softer than the Popeye candy sticks we have in Canada. Both are some of the few remaining candy cigarette brands still on the market – with red tips and cigarette labelling long gone.

Minties – Basic soft mint chews. What’s notable is they’ve historically been so chewy that they pull out fillings, but the ones made for the New Zealand market are now made in Thailand with a recipe that’s less likely to rip out a crown. However, the ones for the Australian market are harder and made …in New Zealand? (They’re also sold under different brands – Pascall vs. Allen’s.) A friend in Australia recently sent me a pack of Minties as well, and they taste different – the Aussie ones are chewier and with a sharper mint flavour.

Kiwi vs Aussie Minties

Tangy Grape / Apple chews – I swear, New Zealand’s dentists must be in cahoots with candy makers to keep people ripping out fillings. Minties, K Bars, Fruit Bursts and these chews – all quite the jaw workout. Otherwise, nothing too special, though the grape one had a pleasingly old-school artificial grape flavour.

Bluebird Delisio Greek Tzatziki chips – These were one of the options for my order, and I didn’t pick them because they were particularly singular or representative of Aotearoa – I just love taztziki. I’ve never seen chips flavoured like it before! They taste like lemon and mint, with realistic cucumber and yogurt in the aftertaste. Tangy and really good.

NEW ZEALAND: More snacks

Here’s Part 2 of my big New Zealand snack order from Kiwi Grub Box – Part 1 is here.

Pascall Party Pack – Pascall is a joint New Zealand and Australia candy company. They make some NZ-specific treats, like Pineapple Lumps (I’ve ordered some, hopefully they arrive in time!), but this is a mixed bag of a few different gummies – gummy worms, jets, and leaves, wine gums, foam bananas, and foam “Explorers”. Up until early extremely recently, Explorers were marketed in New Zealand as the old racial slur for Inuit. An Inuk tourist from Canada had complained back in 2009, but the company had used the “most people aren’t offended” excuse then to keep the name then. Pascall did eventually change the name, but not until 2021. And for the gummies themselves? They’re pretty good, I like the foam bananas the best.

Bluebird Rashuns – Bacon cheesies! Smells like actual bacon, and the flavour is distinctly sharp aged cheddar – it’s so realistic that it’s almost weird. The taste doesn’t last long, but they’re pretty satisfying.

Whittaker’s K Bars – Seriously chewy toffee (it’s a marketing point) – hang onto your filling! Two flavours, blackberry and raspberry. I liked the raspberry better, the blackberry flavour was a bit underwhelming. Serious jaw workout on both!

Raro Sweet Navel Orange – Raro drink mixes come in multi-packs of three, but the snack box I ordered only lets you pick one. There’s a tonne of different flavours, including a pack of three different types of orange. Makes a litre of orange drink – it’s sweet like Koolaid but with a more realistic orange flavour, I could tell they were going for actual navel oranges. Real sugar, too.


This is going to be Part 1 of several – I ordered a huge box of snacks from New Zealand from Kiwi Grub Box. They let you choose from several options – different flavours of chips and the like, and they also included Marmite and onion soup mix for dip.

Bluebird Chicken Chips – I’ve heard a lot about chicken-flavoured chips from Australian friends – it’s a popular flavour down under. Interestingly, these are marketed as “chips” – I would have thought they would be called “crisps” like in other Commonwealth countries, but I guess they’re an outlier alongside us Canadians. As for the chips themselves, they’re a nice ruffle chip with a mild roast chicken flavour. I could see them going well with onion dip.

Mayceys Sour Feijoa Sweets – The first question is “what is a feijoa?” Feijoas are originally from South America and are related to guavas, but have become massively widespread and popular in New Zealand. They’re very hard to transport, however, so they haven’t made it to export markets on a large scale yet. It’s supposed to have a very distinctive and fragrant aroma. Unfortunately, since I can’t get my hands on the actual fruit, I have no real way to compare it to the candy. The candy does have a very floral aroma and a very unique flavour – something like wintergreen, real strawberries, artificial cherry, and fresh rubber all mixed together. Apparently the unique flavour in feijoas is methyl benzoate, which is also a byproduct of cocaine, so it’s what drug dogs are trained to detect. Probably not a good idea to take these through an airport.

L&P – L&P stands for “Lemon and Paeroa“, the town where mineral water was first used to make this pop (there’s a giant roadside L&P bottle there). This drink is a Kiwi classic, with the tongue-in-cheek tagline “World Famous in New Zealand”. It’s very sweet but with a taste of real lemon juice, though so sweet there isn’t any of the tartness of real lemons. It makes me think of a very sugary sparkling lemonade.

Fruit Burst – Individually wrapped soft chews, like a firmer Hi-Chew, in different flavours: Wildberry, Strawberry, Orange, Banana, and Lemon & Lime. I can tell it’s a “freebie” candy, the kind in you get in loot bags and waiting room dishes. It’s not bad, if serious work on the jaws. I’d say Wildberry or Orange were the tastiest, and Strawberry my least favourite.

Griffin’s Original Toffee Pops Bites – Unfortunately I was shipped wrong item; I had ordered “Hokey Pokey Squiggles” because I wanted to try hokey pokey, a kind of honeycomb toffee that’s really popular in NZ. Instead I got Toffee Pops from the same brand, but honestly, it’s not a big deal – I’m not going to turn my nose up on chocolate! These are little bite sized milk chocolates with caramel and a cookie base inside. They’re satisfyingly chewy and pretty good.

NEW ZEALAND: Giving Marmite a fair go

When I was a kid on vacation in New Zealand, I had an encounter with these infamous yeast spreads – I can’t remember if it was Vegemite or Marmite, but between having a kid’s palate and spreading it thick like jam on toast, it didn’t go well. That being said, I grew up to like other “acquired tastes”, like black licorice, pickled herring, or extremely spicy food, so this is a perfect opportunity to give Marmite a fair go and see how I like it as an adult.

There’s two main yeast spreads out there – Vegemite, which is Australian and different in flavour from Marmite, from the UK. However, there is a lesser-exported third – New Zealand Marmite. While UK Marmite is more common globally (it’s now owned by Unilever and I can find it in my local grocery store), NZ Marmite is made by a company called Sanitarium, and has been for about a century. It’s claimed the NZ Marmite is the “gentlest” of the three, so this will be a good on-ramp for me.

My packet of Marmite came with the snacks I ordered from Kiwi Grub Box. I’m going to make it properly this time – spread very thinly on buttered toast.

At first, it’s just intensely salty. But then, there’s a complex, deeply savoury flavour. Something vegetal and earthy, but also reminds me of a really dark soy sauce or black bean paste. However, there’s absolutely nothing even remotely sweet about it. I don’t hate it – it’s actually a really interesting taste, I bet it could add some nice savoury complexity to food. I think I’m going to experiment and try adding a little dollop to gravy or stew, or I could be a complete heathen and try using it instead of Worcestershire in a Caesar.

NEW ZEALAND: Kiwi onion dip and cheese rolls

I ordered a box of snacks from Kiwi Grub Box, which included was a package of Maggi bacon onion soup mix. I could have just made myself a nice warm bowl of soup, but turns out this brand of onion soup mix is worth its weight in gold for Kiwi ex-pats – it’s one half of Kiwi onion dip. Using onion soup mix to make a dip isn’t unique to New Zealand, but this is so beloved that the ingredients are often shipped out to Kiwis abroad.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the other ingredient – a can of reduced cream. In fact, I have no idea what reduced cream is – it’s only sold in NZ. A bit of searching comes up with some options – table cream or would have the same butterfat amount and looks like a similar consistency. However, Kiwi sources recommend using sour cream. Almost all say nothing tastes the same as reduced cream, but I’ll have to make do.

I’m going to split the package in half and do a little experiment – one dip made with table cream, the other with sour cream. Each then gets a dash of lemon juice (vinegar is alternately used in recipes) and then into the fridge for half an hour.

Okay, sour cream wins hands down, no question. It’s delicious – flavourful and tangy, went perfect with some carrots. The table cream one was far too thin and less tangy. The good news is I’m not going to let it go to waste – I’ll simmer it down into a pasta sauce.

I set some of the dip aside so I can use it to make another Kiwi recipe: cheese rolls. It’s a South Island snack – you grate some cheese into the onion dip, spread it on the verso of buttered bread, roll it up and toast it in the oven! I used brown bread, so a bit less authentic, but yum, these are good – and messy!

SAN MARINO: More snacks

This is Part 2 of San Marino snacks from La Serenissima. I was really hamstrung when I was ordering from them because of my hazelnut allergy – hazelnuts are a massive staple of Sammarinese desserts, including as the key ingredient of San Marino’s most famous specialty, Torta Tre Monti. Sadly, it’s a no go for me, so instead, I made do and ordered pretty much everything that I wasn’t allergic to!

Il Torrone Mandorle – The name just means almond nougat, and that’s what you get – a very soft, sticky nougat filled with almonds. Very tasty and sweet. I quite liked it, but between the super soft nougat and the hard almonds, it’s almost impossible to cut into nice slices!

Moscatelli biscuits – Crumbly little cookies with raisins and pine nuts, flavoured with locally-produced San Marino muscat wine. They’re bite sized and not too sweet; I really dig the flavour. I’m not normally a fan of raisins in cookies (it’s always oatmeal raisin when you think it’s going to be chocolate chip), but these work because they lean into the raisin/white wine flavour. I think these may be a specialty of San Marino – La Serenissima is the only source I can find that makes them.

Montegiardino white chocolate – Continuing their series of chocolates named after San Marino’s districts (or castles, as they’re sometimes translated to). Montegiardino is the southeast corner of the country, and was one of the last territories added to San Marino, in 1463. The chocolate is straightforward, just a plain, good quality white chocolate.

Chiesanuova dark chocolate with cinnamon – Chiesanuova is the southwest region, looking up at the back of Mount Titano. The text inisde the lid translates to a legend of a buried gold bell under the site of a now-vanished monastery. The chocolate is a bar of their dark chocolate (I tried it plain in Part 1) with powdered cinnamon added. The cinnamon is pretty mild and only really comes out in the aftertaste, but that does keep it from being overpowering and makes the chocolate almost slightly savoury.