On April 26 1986 several explosions caused a fire at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine that sent a radioactive plume across large parts of the Soviet Union and Western Europe. It became the first level 7 nuclear disaster until the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011 and remains the worst nuclear accident in history.

Today, over a quarter-century since the disaster, workers continue to tread through the 30-km exclusion zone in hazmat suits every day to construct a new concrete shield around the deteriorating sarcophagus built in 1986 that holds the still-radioactive core.

There’s no question that a wasteland commute followed by a day spent laboring in a bulky suit and ventilation mask doesn’t make for ideal working conditions. However, there is one saving grace for the brave workers at Chernobyl: delicious meals at the employee cafeteria.

Our globetrotting correspondent Kuzo recently visited Ukraine, where he had the opportunity to dine at the Chernobyl cafeteria. Kuzo writes: “The meals at the cafeteria are all authentic Ukrainian cuisine. Even the Ukrainian woman I was traveling with told me with confidence that the food there is great.”

Want to know what’s on the menu? Check his report below!

・Borscht to refresh a weary soul
Surely the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Ukrainian cuisine. The borscht here tasted much zestier than what I had eaten in Kiev or Moscow and, despite being in the middle of the 30-km exclusion zone, the soup tasted so fresh that I was able to distinguish the delicate flavor of each vegetable.

・Simple yet flavorful side dishes to stimulate the gustatory system
Pickles, sautéed carrots, fried egg: they may taste simple on their own but, much like traditional Japanese cuisine, the appeal is not in the complexity of each flavor but the variety. Each side dish goes perfectly with the borscht and the helping of rice also included with the meal.

・A super sweet desert to keep you going
I thought the whipped creamed-filled crepes may be a little too sweet for some people (maybe just Japanese?), but anything less might not be enough to keep the plant workers going until the next meal.

・A reason to come back
Chernobyl isn’t the easiest place to get to, but I would come back just to eat at the cafeteria again. In my opinion, the food here was leagues better than the traditional Ukrainian meal I had a well-known restaurant in Kiev.

Perhaps this is just the quality of food Ukrainians are used to having at home. It certainly would be understandable: when you have to spend every day working in a ghost town, there’s likely nothing that could help you keep your head on straight like a home-cooked meal.

Correspondent: Kuzo

[ Read in Japanese ]