Jewish culture in Odessa cuisine: Forshmak
An authentic Old World appetizer - Jewish touch in Odessa cuisine
Forshmak, is is the most significant Jewish recipe in Odessa cuisine. It is a sort of herring pâté, that was popular in the USSR. Yet, Forshmak predates the USSR. It originates from the regions of Poland, Lithuania, where it was called vorschmack (“pre-taste” or “appetizer” in Yiddish) and consists of fish paste made of fried herring, eggs, apples and onions.
Originally, it was a baked casserole made of chopped cooked meat, herring, onion, eggs, and some cream. Soviet version was hot and included potatoes and some gratinéed cheese on top. At some point, though, people stopped mixing fish and meat (probably because, it was difficult to find both on the same day in a Soviet store).
The Jewish version is served like a cold pâté in glass terrine jars with croutons of black bread, most often triangular shaped. In Odessa, which is considered the Ukrainian capital of this dish, herring is sometimes replaced with sprats.
Today, is presented a modern stylish appetizer, although in the past it was considered poor man’s food. There’s a Yiddish joke saying: “where there is no worthy man, even a herring is a fish”.