There will always be that one glorious dish that is near and dear to your heart, a food that is synonymous with satisfaction and perfection. We asked our friends in the food and editorial world to write #FoodOdes to the dishes that they love. Here, an ode to Veselka’s short rib pierogies, from Huffington Post contributor Leah Bhabha (@bhabhapickle).
I’m an ardent dumpling connoisseur, loving few things more than a layer of dough encasing some kind of flavorful meat stuffing (veggie need not apply.) One of my most favorite dumplings goes by a different name, however, and it is the Veselka short rib pierogi. A Veselka devotee to the core, I could rhapsodize for hours about the 24-hour East Village Ukranian diner, with its swift service, constant stream of customers at all hours, and ethereal potato pancakes.
Instead, I’ll focus on my main pin-up and its exalted status in my neighborhood dining roster. When the “seasonal pierogi” sign is emblazoned with the heart ascending words “short rib”, I forget about my sky-high rent and questionable neighbors, because I’m lucky to be just a stone’s throw from this mouthwatering Ukrainian delight. For those uninitiated, Veselka is refreshingly no-frills. The pared down dining room belies little, and the food is quite the same. Back to the pierogies, though. First things first: boiled or fried? I always choose the former (with any kind of dumpling in fact) feeling that a slick of oil does nothing to enhance a perfect stuffed delicacy, and is, in fact, a cheap way of making bad specimens more palatable. Many disagree, but I hold my ground. And if you’re dining with me, don’t expect any pan-seared shenanigans.
They are a panacea, excellent for hangover prevention. And, if you’re silly enough not to eat them as the night becomes hazy, they will revive you the following morning.
They arrive, my little half moons of joy, with a few friends in tow. Two small metal containers hold the key to ultimate pierogi nirvana: one filled with a creamy white spread and the other with glistening sepia squares. These are, of course, sour cream and caramelized onions—essential in the consumption of a savory pierogi. The short rib pouches possess a chewy thick outer layer which gives way to umami rich shreds of tender meat; each bite is an ideal ratio of dough to filling. My method of enjoying these princely packages is an exercise in excess, as I smear each morsel—no matter how minuscule—with a very healthy dab of sour cream and mound of onions. After the first bite, a second portion of both condiments is necessary.
The caramelized onions, simultaneously sweet and savory, add complexity to the rich meat while the decadent sour cream takes the rib stickin’ dish to even higher levels of, well, rib stickin’-ness. Perhaps it wouldn’t pass the food pyramid test, but I see this meal as the perfect balance of food groups—meat, starch, vegetables (albeit prepared with a significant amount of fat), and dairy.
While these glorious edible wonderpillows are only available for part of the year, when they are on the menu, I can rarely be kept from eating them at all hours, day or night. They are a panacea, excellent for hangover prevention. And, if you’re silly enough not to eat them as the night becomes hazy, they will revive you the following morning, and you shall emerge from the hallowed Ukrainian locale with a renewed spirit and spring in your step.