Top foods to try in Russia

Russian cuisine history

Russian cuisine has developed over a long period, adopting different dishes from various regions. Typical Russian foods are represented with brown bread, soup, pancakes, pies and porridges, dishes made with mushrooms and pickled vegetables.

Sedentary lifestyle of Russians is one of the factors, which influenced the development of Russian cuisine. During long winters, when people spent most of their time inside, they cooked using the Russian stove. The Russian stove is a massive masonry wood burning construction. It gives even heat distribution, which cooks food from all directions.

Russia's expansions of territory and openness of the country towards the world in the 16th-18th centuries led to appearance of new types of food, such as smoked and grilled meat and fish, chocolate, ice cream etc. At least for the urban aristocracy and provincial gentry, this opened the doors for the creative integration of these new foodstuffs with traditional Russian dishes.

Today, Russian cuisine combines traditional meals with dishes borrowed from European and Eastern countries and territories.

Russian soups

When in Russia you should certainly try Russian soups.

Борщ (Borsch)

One of the most popular soups in Russia is borsch (beetroot soup). Borsch is based on meat, chicken or vegetable broth and includes beetroot as one of the main ingredients. Beetroot gives a strong red colour to the soup. Borsch is served either hot or cold.

Солянка (solyanka)

It is a thick, spicy and sour soup. There are three different kinds of solyanka, with the main ingredient being either meat, fish or mushrooms. All three types contain pickled cucumbers with brine.

Уха (ukha)

Ukha is a Russian fish soup. Classic Russian ukha is made of perch, pike perch (zander) or vendace. Some people claim that one can cook true ukha only on campfire using very fresh fish, preferably just been caught. Otherwise, the dish is an ordinary fish soup and does not deserve a proud “ukha” name.

Окрошка (okroshka)

This Russian cold soup is popular inside the country, but foreigners find it strange, to say the least. Okroshka is usually made of cucumbers, radish, potatoes, kielbasa (or boiled meat), eggs and kvass (or kefir) as a liquid component. Kvass is a Russian non-alcoholic drink made of bread. You pour kvass into the mixture of vegetables and meat, add smetana (a kind of sour cream) and dill. Most Russians love dill.

Щи (shchi)

Shchi soup is made of either cabbage or sauerkraut.

Russian hot dishes

Пельмени (pelmeni)

Russian hot dish called "pelmeni" (dumplings, tortellini) are made of thin unfermented dough and minced meat filling. Pork, lamb, beef, or any other kind of meat can be used.

Бефстроганов (Beef Stroganoff)

Bœuf Stroganoff is a popular Russian dish of thin pieces of beef sautéed in smetana, mustard and onion sauce. It is named after Duke Alexander Stroganoff, who was an important figure in the 19th Century Russian Empire.
Шашлык (shahslyk)
Shahslyk is a form of shish kebab usually cooked at picnic parties. Originally, it was borrowed from the peoples of the Caucasus. Today one can find shashlyk made of lamb, pork, beef, chicken and salmon.

Russian salads and appetizers

«Ольвье» (Olivier salad)

It is probably the most famous Russian salad, sometimes just called “Russian salad”. The 19th century recipe could include hazel grouse, boiled potatoes, cucumbers or pickles, olives, capers, truffles, crayfish tail and salad leaves served with a mix of homemade mayonnaise and “Kabul sauce”. Soviet version of this salad is much simpler and typically includes boiled meat or kielbasa or salami, boiled potatoes, carrots, canned peas mixed and served with industrial mayonnaise and a good deal of dill.

Блины (blinis)

Blinis or crêpes are most often made of wheat flour. You may eat them with jam, honey, smetana (sour cream), condensed milk, maple sauce, salted or smoked salmon, salmon roe and caviar.

Чёрная и красная икра (Caviar and salmon roe)

Caviar and salmon roe are considered Russian delicacies. Caviar is made of salt-cured roe from wild or farmed sturgeon - Ossetra, Beluga and Sevruga.

The cheapest salmon roe is made from farmed trout and wild Gorbusha (pink salmon). The most expensive comes from Nerka (Sockeye salmon) and Tchawytcha (Chinook salmon).