Traditional Russian food is the same Russian attraction as Red Square in Moscow. Indeed, don’t we often travel for trying new dishes and tastes? Yes, we do!
Traditional food is always a good way to discover a country.
Wondering what Russian cuisine has to offer to gourmet guests? Here’s a list of the most popular dishes. You can easily find them in restaurants or cafes throughout the country. If you have Russian friends, they will be glad to cook something traditional for you.
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Traditional Russian Food
Now come over to explore typical food to try while visiting Russia.
First of all, I have to mention borsch. This soup is probably the most known traditional Russian dish.
Borsch is a red-colour soup made of meat and vegetables. Borsch has many ingredients: potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onions, parsley, dill and, of course, beets. By the way, it’s due to beets that the soup has this appetizing colour. No artificial food colourings!
Speaking about the right food, Russians say that a good borsch has to be thick enough for a spoon to stand upright in it!
Usually, we serve borsch with sour cream and rye bread. Some also add chopped garlic and salo (salted or smoked pork fatback). As you see, borsch is a very hearty dish.
Solyanka is a hearty spicy soup with a slightly sour taste. Traditional solyanka includes at least 4 types of meat: boiled meat, smoked, sausages, etc. Then go pickled cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and olives.
Russian usually eat solyanka with a slice of lemon and sour cream.
Okroshka is a cold soup which Russians cook in summer.
Borsch and solyanka are hot warming soups. They are good in winter. Taking into consideration Russian weather, they are totally necessary for Russian cuisine.
However, during summer days Russians forget about borsch and opt for okroshka.
Okroshka is a mix of finely cut vegetables: boiled potatoes, raw cucumbers and radishes. Add to this eggs, meat and lots of parsley and dill.
Instead of broth, for okroshka we use kvass. It’s a traditional Russian beverage made of fermented black or rye bread. Very refreshing!
Pelmeni are sort of dumplings or ravioli. Russian pelmeni have a special shape: they remind me of a round fluffy pillow.
Pelmeni are made of thin dough filled with chopped meat. Making pelmeni at home is a family tradition for Russians. Usually, all family members take part in it: some chop meat, others make the dough…
When pelmeni are made, we just boil them in water with spices for a few minutes. As soon as cooked, we serve pelmeni with butter or sour cream.
Of course, many restaurants in Russia offer pelmeni. There are even special restaurants called “Pelmennaya”.
Vareniki are like pelmeni. But instead of meat, they have diverse fillings. Vareniki can be hearty — with mashed potatoes and mushrooms, for example.
However, I would recommend trying the sweet vareniki. You won’t regret tasting vareniki with cherries, sweet cottage cheese or blueberry!
Beef Stroganoff is a popular dish of Russian cuisine made from finely chopped pieces of beef and hot sour cream sauce. Traditionally, we eat Beef Stroganoff with potatoes but you can also try pasta or rice as a garnish.
The name of the dish reminds us of Alexander Stroganov, Russian nobleman, minister and governor, who lived in the XIXth century.
Stroganov was a wealthy and generous person. That’s why he held an “open table” in his mansion. This means that any decently dressed person could come to Stroganov’s house for having lunch. Stroganov’s cook invented Beef Stroganoff especially for those “open tables”. The dish was easy to cook, to serve and, most importantly, it was delicious.
By the way, if you want to know how the Stroganovs lived, visit the Stroganov Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia
Pierogi & Pirozhki
Pierogi are Russian pies. Pierog is a big pie. Pirozhok is an individual-sized pie.
Actually, there are many different recipes for pierogi. Their fillings can be savoury: vegetables, meat, or fish. There are also sweet pies with berries, cottage cheese, poppy seeds.
The first Russian pierogi had vegetable and fruit fillings. That’s why, for a traditional taste, try pierogi with cabbage and eggs, with mashed potatoes and onions or with apples.
Herring Under a Fur Coat
Don’t worry, there’s no fur in this traditional Russian salad 🙂
The other name of this dish is “dressed herring”. So what’s that herring’s dress?!
Actually, herring under a fur coat is a layered salad. The first layer on its bottom is chopped salted herrings. Then come layers of mashed potatoes, carrots, eggs. The top of the “coat” is obligatory made of beets. The dish could seem weird but I swear it’s so damn good!
Traditionally, Russians make herring under a fur coat for a New Years celebration. However, you can try this dish in Russian restaurants all year round.
Blini are an important part of traditional Russian food. They are sweet flat pancakes. The thinner — the better, that’s what Russian think about them.
Besides, there’s also think blini. They are made of a different kind of dough (yeast dough).
Most foreigners believe that Russians eat blini with caviar. Russian prefer sweet blini: with jams, condensed milk, or honey. It’s an after-meal treat served with tea (rarely with coffee).
There are savoury blini filled with cheese, ham or fish. If you’re hungry, this is a nice idea for having a snack.
To tell more, blini are often a ritual dish. For example, to celebrate Maslenitsa (analogue of Mardi Gras) Russians make lots of blini for their family and friends. Maslenitsa is the day when we say goodbye to winter and welcome spring. Round and yellow blini are symbolizing the sun.
Kasha is the Russian name of porridge. Usually, it’s a dish made of cereal boiled in milk or water.
Kasha is a traditional Russian breakfast. For breakfasts, we eat a sweet kasha made of wheat, oats, or semolina. We boil cereals with milk, sugar and serve it with a slice of butter and a berry jam.
Particularly, I would advise trying 2 particular sorts of kasha:
- Buckwheat kasha with mushrooms and onions. Mushrooms, onions and buckwheat create a fantastic mix. Even with no spices, it smells very appetizing.
- Legendary Guriev kasha.
Initially, Russian cook Zakhar Kuzmin prepared Guriev kasha for his master Dmitry Guriev, famous Moscow gourmet.
Guriev Kasha was the favourite dish of Emperor Alexander III.
Moreover, in 1814 Guriev Kasha was first exhibited in Paris as a Russian dessert. Since then, it became famous throughout the world.
So why is it so special?
Traditionally, Guryev kasha is made from semolina with cream froths. Semolina layers alternate with nuts, dry berries and jams. Then all this stuff goes to an oven until it obtains a golden-brown colour and turns into a delightful tender dessert.
Do Russians Eat Traditional Russian Food?
Yes, Russians eat traditional Russian food, it’s not only a tourist attraction. We love borsch and invite friends to make pelmeni. We adore blini and cook refreshing okroshka during summer days.
But this is not the only food we have. We also love pizza, sushi, spaghetti Bolognese and burgers. That is to say, in everyday life, we don’t specifically stick to typical Russian food — we prefer diversity.
I have to add, that many Russian regions have their local spécialités. For instance, it’s sweet chak-chak in Tatarstan or delicious perepechi in Udmurtia.
To sum up, Russia is a good destination for food-tourism. Yes, really. We have museums, theatres and spaceships, but our food is also worth trying!