As Russian myself, I’d like to focus on some of the best Russian dishes. Several are extremely popular coming from the traditional Russian cuisine, cooked in many Russian families and you can ask for them by name in local restaurants here in St. Petersburg.
Soups take a special place in our everyday menu. Traditionally, Russians serve them as the first course for lunch. In such a cold climate as in St-Petersburg people prefer to eat soup every day to stay warm. Borsch is the most popular soup of all. Recipes may vary in different part of the country, but all of them include such vegetables as beetroot, cabbage, carrot, potato, and onion. Beetroot gives the borsch this deep red, almost ruby color. The borsch soup can be cooked vegetarian or based on beef broth. Locals add greens, especially dill which is particularly popular to many Russian dishes, either for better taste or to decorate. Borsch soup is served hot, with sour cream.
So, what about summer time? Instead of a bowl of steaming soup, people eat cold borsch. Many ingredients are the same as in hot borsch, but no boiled broth; Based on cold water, to which finely chopped beet is added to give this distinctive red color. Cucumber, radish, green onion and halves of hard-boiled eggs are also part of this cold soup.
Another type of soup is the Okroshka. Based on kvas (a non-alcoholic beverage widely used in Russia), to which locals add all the ingredients: cooked meat, e.g., beef, veal, ham or sausages, and vegetables. Both cold borsch and okroshka are perfect to keep one cool and refreshed in hot summer.
Another soup you may find in local restaurants and cafes is the mushroom soup. Mushroom picking is quite popular in Russia. Winters here are long and the warm weather short, the meat supply and they replaced it with mushrooms which are hearty, savory and a perfect substitute. A popular one is the Russian Mushroom Barley soup.
Salads are extremely popular in Russia. Russians serve them as snacks and sometimes, as separate dishes. We use a lot of vegetables, which grow underground: potato, onion, beet, radish, carrot, and mayonnaise for dressing. Yes, many salads include mayonnaise, so be prepared for that!
This particular salad is also widespread, called Selyodka Pod Shuboy, literally translated as Herring under Fur Coat, or Dressed Herring. Cooked for family dinners, parties, and celebrations. For Russians, this salad is a symbol of the New Year because so many families prefer to have it on the table for the New Year party event.
The mixture is made up of layers: finely chopped salted herring is the first (lowest) layer. The top layer is grated beet. In between, you’ll find grated boiled vegetables (potato, carrot) and chopped onion. Some people add fresh grated apples or boiled eggs some do not. The dressing is mayonnaise. In fact, the beet with mayo is considered to be a fur for the herring.
Another favorite, the Russian salad known as Olivier salad. The mixture was first cooked in the middle of the 19th century by the French cooker Lucien Olivier, hence the name of the salad. However, nowadays the recipe differs from the first version. Now it includes cooked meat, boiled and chopped vegetables such as potato and carrot, as well as cut onion, green peas, pickled or fresh cucumber, dill and mayonnaise for dressing.
Savory Pancakes or Bliny.
Many could consider them an international dish; in Russia, they come in specific variations. Savory pancakes with meat, cabbage or cottage cheese feelings cooked stuffed and fried again to seal them into a roll. They are delicious, but a not diet-friendly dish. More straightforward options come with sour cream and caviar as a spread.
Made of wheat flour, eggs, water and upon backing on a hot frying pan they are flat and come in a round shape. Pancakes are eaten both as snacks, main course dish and desserts depending on their filling. So, for the main course meal pancakes are filled in with potato and mushroom, fish, cooked meat, salmon and red caviar (the most luxurious way of serving). In the form of sweet, pancakes come with all sort of jam, sweetened condensed milk, honey or chocolate.
This Russian traditional Stroganoff Beef dish originated in the 19th century taking the name from one of the well-off noble families in Russia. Comes in different variations and is known worldwide. It primarily consists of small beef pieces in the sour cream sauce, with an addition of several different veggies and accompanies various side dishes.
Pelmeni or dumplings. This dish is also commonly made at home by many Russian families and is available in food-stores too. Pieces of ground beef or pork (or any other kind of meat) wrapped in thin dough, made from flour, water, and eggs. The filling for pelmeni is never sweet; this is not a dessert. They are quite small, just 2-3 cm. Served mainly with sour-cream, but they are also possible to find with mustard, horseradish or tomato sauce. Like many other dishes cooked in Russia pelmeni is covered with freshly cut dill. The ones in the photos are meat dumplings.
They are small in size buns stuffed with a variety of fillings. They come like treats to replace a full-sized pie. Again, the filling could be sweet and savoury, while the ones that stand out are pirozhki with potato, cabbage, mushroom or meat. The sweet option comes with a filling of apple, cherries cottage cheese, even lemon.
Fish dishes are among the most popular type of food in Russia. Due to proximity to several seas as well as rivers and lakes people in Russia always had the opportunity to enjoy many sorts of fresh fish. Let me touch upon a fish, well-known in St-Petersburg, which is called korushka. In restaurants, the fish is served fried with various sauces, smoked or marinated. This fish is a city’s specialty in April since the smelt arrives in the Neva delta (the main river in the city) precisely at this time.
If you plan to be in St Petersburg on May 13-14th, you can attend the Festival of Korushka, traditionally held in the exhibition center of Lenexpo. For many people, it is an unofficial symbol of St. Petersburg. Its smell is similar to cucumber when fresh, sold in markets and is associated with the start of spring. The best time to try it is in April.
Russians Honey Cake, the Medovik comes in layers, and there are two types of this traditional cake; the Medovnik also known as Medoviy Tort has honey in the sour cream frosting. The sweeter option is called Medovik, with walnuts missing!
The original Russian Napoleon Cake is a standard dessert in the Soviet cuisine. A multi-layer puff pastry cake with a fantastic blend of creamy and flaky textures identical to the Millefeuille. The word stands for thousand layers) well known in Europe too.
Locals believe it exists since 1912, prepared for the first time in Moscow to celebrate Napoleon’s defeat. The top, covered by pastry crumbs symbolizes the snow of Russia which helped the Russians defeat Napoleon.
Having given you a picture of the traditional Russian Cuisine what do you think of it? I would love to hear your comments.