Russia is the largest nation in the world. It’s a part of two continents – Europe and Asia – which means that it’s very diverse. In addition to having a diverse culture, it also offers diverse cuisines. They have different food offerings but of course, you’re interested to know what the traditional Russian foods are. If you are also interested to learn more about Russia as a travel destination, we recommend you to check out Russianblogger.me travel blog.
A Primer on Russian Cuisine
It’s a hodgepodge of several cooking traditions of the Russians. As what you’d expect, it’s the product of the multi-cultural landscape of the nation. However, it’s important to note that Soviet cuisine is not really Russian cuisine. They have different characters and appeals.
The foundation of Russian cuisine is based on what’s perceived as peasant food. Its notorious harsh climate also plays an important role in its foundation. Here are some of the major ingredients that figure prominently in Russian cuisine:
- Chicken and other poultry
- Wheat, rye, millet and barley
- Different types of berries
As its culture expanded, the cuisine experienced a boost of refinement. More ingredients and techniques were brought in. Different foods from all over the world were imported and Russia made them their own by adding their own foundation.
Here are a few traditional Russian meat dishes:
This is a good example of how Russians typically use meat and dough together. It’s a dish made by wrapping a minced meat based filling with dough made out of eggs and flour. It’s the Russian’s version of dumplings. Different types of meat are used to make pelmeni.
Also known as studen’, kholodets are made of pork that has been jellied and then chopped. The cooking process is long as it requires boiling the meat for a long time before being chilled for up to 4 hours. This cooking process utilizes the natural gelatinous nature of the offal that’s used for this dish. Spices and vegetables are added.
This is fast food for Russians. They’re basically meatballs that can be put together and enjoyed by the family in a short period of time.
This is the Russians’ version of the Shish kebab. It’s made by alternating onion and meat on a skewer. Very tasty, Russians make Shashlyk on a bbq as well.
Russia is also big on pies. There’s the pirozhki which is a pie typically stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat, mushrooms and onion.
Pancakes fall into this category as well with the blini probably being the most popular since they’re often served during a religious celebration. Russians also love snacking on syrniki which are fried curd fritters. They’re served with a garnish of apple sauce or honey.
Vegetables are the ultimate peasant foods so it’s understandable why it figures prominently in Russian cuisine. Russians use vegetables that are very common in the nation like potatoes and cabbage. They also depend on vegetables for winter food as they pickled them to be used during the harsh winter.
In addition to pickling the vegetables, they’re also used as ingredients for soups. The shchi or cabbage soup is very popular. It’s also very traditional. Tradition dictates that it’s enjoyed as the first course. It has been this way for thousands of years. This is a dish that is truly Russian. It doesn’t matter if you belong to the rich or the poor.
Other Hot Soups
As you can probably imagine, Russians enjoyed their soup very much especially during harsh winters. In addition to the shchi, there’s also the rassolnik which uses a cucumber base that’s both sour and salty. Combine the components of rassolnik together with the schchi, add certain spices, and you have the solyanka.
There’s also the lapsha which shows how good the Russians are able to adapt different cuisines and make them their own. Adapted from the Tatars, this noodle soup is now enjoyed all over Russia with three different varieties.
Fish is also an important part of Russian cuisine and is often used in hot soups. On that note, there are 7 different varieties of soups in Russian cuisine:
- Fish-based soups like the ukha
- Cold soups like the botvinya
- Noodle soups that usually have meat and milk
- Cabbage-based soups
- Grain-based soups (vegetable-based soups also fall under this category)
- Thicker soups like the solyanka
- Light soups like the swekolnik
As far as traditional Russian food is concerned, it’s hard to find something more traditional than the humble porridge. It plays an important role in the cuisine. They call it kasha which is used to refer to any type of porridge. With different whole grains, the Russians are able to come up with several cereals and they’ve found use for them in the traditional kasha.
It’s not enough that we talk about traditional Russian food. When talking about Russian cuisine, we also have to talk about Russian beverages. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just vodka. Here are some traditional Russian beverages:
While it’s true that some of these beverages have been replaced as the preferred drinks of choice of Russians, they’re still part of a tradition.
Do they have a Sweet Tooth?
Russians like their desserts as well. Their dessert of choice is the varenye. In addition to being a dessert, it’s also a condiment. It’s made from cooked berries. Think of it as jam because it has the same appeal. The main difference is their consistency.
This dessert/condiment is used to top crepes and pancakes. It’s also used to sweeten tea. Those that have a real sweet tooth eat it on its own as a dessert.
Try these Traditional Russian Foods Now
As you can see, the nation has a lot to offer as far as its cuisine is concerned. One of the best ways to enjoy your visit to Russia is to try their foods and beverages. It’s like eating European and Asian foods in one. Sit down and enjoy a good Russian meal of meats, soups, beverages and even dessert. You’ll know why it’s considered as one of the most refined cuisines in the world.