Eating out tonight? Fancy something exotic?
Generally, ‘foreign’ restaurants in the UK mean Indian, Chinese or Italian. Maybe you fancy a sushi bar, Spanish tapas or something Greek? Whatever you choose, it’s not very likely you’ll be eating Russian … if only because there aren’t any Russian restaurants where you live!
But Russian cuisine has plenty to offer. Agreed, in Soviet times, most Russians couldn’t afford to eat out, and restaurants were pretty few and far between, even in the big cities. But these days, eating out in Russia is pretty much like eating out anywhere else – plenty of choice, with traditional restaurants mixed in with foreign cuisine to please even the most discerning palate.
So what should you try next time you visit Russia? Here are a few suggestions…
Salat Olivier – not necessarily the healthiest salad you’re ever likely to come across, but delicious all the same, and well worth a try. Salat Olivier is made with potatoes, pickles, boiled eggs, chicken (or ham), onions and carrots, all held together by copious amounts of mayonnaise.
Salat Vinaigrette – a healthier option, this popular purple salad is made with cooked small diced vegetables like beets, carrots, pickles and potatoes, then mixed with peas and minced onions, and tossed with sunflower oil and vinegar.
Borsch – A trip to Russia isn’t complete without trying at least one bowl of hearty borsch. This classic soup is made with beets, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and dill, and Served with Smetana (a cross between sour cream and crème fraîche). You can also get green borscht made with sorrel, onions, potatoes, herbs and heavy cream and topped with boiled eggs.
Kholodets – Bits of meat or fish in cold gelatin, usually served with potent bright pink horseradish (beware – it’s hot!).
Zakuska – Appetisers, starters, entrees, hors d’oeuvres, although more often than not, zakuska is the food which accompanies vodka and other strong drinks like whisky, cognac or brandy. The most authentic Russian zakuska are pickled fare (cabbage, cucumbers, mushrooms), salted fish (sturgeon, salmon, caviar) and smoked meat (ham, poultry, cold-boiled pork).
Salat Shuba – This oddly-named ‘Herring under Fur Coat’ salad takes its name from the fact it contains herring fillets cloaked in vegetables. This bright pink, layered salad gets its colour from sliced beets. There are also bands of eggs and potatoes, diced carrots and onions. Mayonnaise binds the whole thing together, and it’s often presented in a glass dish so you can appreciate all the meticulous layers.
Blini – This Russian-style pancake is served either sweet or savoury and filled with a variety of things such as mushrooms or salmon in a sour cream sauce, or sweet farmers’ cheese with sour cherries.
Oladushki – A thicker type of pancake essentially made of flour, eggs and water. Oladushki are usually cooked with an assortment of toppings or added ingredients and can be either sweet or savoury. Easy to prepare, they’re loved by households all over Russia.
Caviar – Who hasn’t heard of Russian caviar? It’s never going to be cheap, but some examples are more affordable than others. Prices range from Siberian sturgeon upwards to the prized Osetra caviar, whose price is only eclipsed by Beluga. Russian caviar is usually served with blini, or toast fingers, and traditional condiments like chopped hard-boiled eggs, minced red onions, and sour cream. Go on – treat yourself!
Kolbasa – Russian sausage made from ground meat and wrapped in a special casing. The casing was originally made of animal intestines. Nowadays, it’s still done this way for expensive brands, but most of the casings are otherwise synthetic. Kolbasa are long, thick sausages – if you’re looking for something smaller, go for sardelki or sosiski.
Golubtsi – Generally considered a meal for special occasions, golubtsi consist of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. The filling traditionally consists of meat (often ground beef, lamb or pork) and is seasoned with garlic, onion and spices. Grains such as rice and barley, eggs, mushrooms and vegetables can often be included in the filling as well. The dish originated as a way to use leftover food, meaning the recipe is adaptable so that the filling can incorporate whatever you have to hand.
Shashlik – The Russian answer to the shish-kebab. Shashliki (skewered meat, usually pork) are grilled over an open fire. Marinade recipes vary, but usually involve kefir (a sour milk product). There are plenty of Russian restaurants that specialise in shashlik, but for the true ‘Russian’ experience, shashlik tastes best prepared outdoors over an open fire in a pit dug in the ground.
Salo – Raw, unrendered pork fat may not sound particularly appetising, but Russians love it! Often frozen and cut into thin pieces, Russians eat salo on black bread topped with onions, or raw with cloves of garlic. Go on – give it a try!
Syrniki – What’s for breakfast? The all-time favourite of young and old alike is syrniki – farm-cheese pancakes. Delicious!
Pelmeni – Russian dumplings that look like tortellini, but usually filled with ground meat and spices. They’re either served like soup in a light broth, or pan-fried with onions till crispy and served with a hearty dollop of cream.
Varenyky – A handmade Russian-style dumpling, usually filled with potatoes and served with sour cream. There’s also a dessert version made with black cherries and served with sweetened cream.
Kissel – Russians love their desserts, and kissel is a sweet way to end a good meal. This soft, fruit-based dessert, generally made from berries, sugar and either cornstarch or potato starch, can be hot or cold, firm or liquid, and is made using many kinds of fruits, the most popular being cranberries, cherries and red currants. Kissel can be served in a cup for drinking or in a bowl to be eaten with a spoon, and is usually topped with sweet cream.
This is just a taster (no pun intended!) of some of the great Russian culinary specialities you can try when you visit Russia. And with the rouble so weak at the moment, dining out in Moscow or St Petersburg is more affordable than ever. Bon appétit!
This post first appeared on Package Holidays And Tours To Russia, please read the originial post: here