Remnants of the food shortages from the Soviet era still linger on the shopping lists of contemporary Russians. Though they might not be the world’s most daring culinary experimenters, I can’t bring myself to say that Russian cuisine lacks creativity.
Who else can turn the most basic ingredients into hearty dishes that might knock you out faster than a sip of vodka? Crispy dough, chunks of butter, rich cream, and hearty meats are staples of Russian cooking, adorned with a touch of dill to brighten even the coldest winter nights. These 10 Russian delicacies you must try will leave you drooling, perhaps even surprised that Russian cuisine is more than just potatoes and vodka!
Dumplings are the ultimate late-night snack – meat-filled pockets, kissed with a dollop of sour cream, guiding me through mechanical hip sways in upscale nightclubs. I’d say they are like Italian ravioli – just better – but that should come with a hint of exaggeration because I can’t recall ever soberly eating them.
If you have a sweet tooth or are a vegetarian, you might prefer Vareniki – a similar dish filled with potatoes, applesauce, or sweet cottage cheese.
Thin Pancakes (Блины)
Thin pancakes resemble crepes but are slightly thicker, and perhaps a bit more greasy. They are also incredibly versatile – filled with meat, sprinkled with cheese, or dusted with powdered sugar. However, the traditional toppings are smoked salmon, caviar, sour cream (a thick and heavy version), and dill (the truly annoying green herb Russians love to sprinkle on everything).
Beef Stroganoff (Бефстроганов)
Beef Stroganoff is made with strips of beef and a rich creamy sauce. I should offer more interesting details, but the fact is, I haven’t tried this dish yet. I know, I know – I should practice what I preach. But this dish is also popular in faraway places like Japan and Iran, which makes me feel like it’s a globally appreciated dish.
Pirozhki or smaller Pirozhki are baked sourdough dumplings that can be filled with almost anything – minced meat, onions, eggs, potatoes, cabbage, diamonds, or unicorns. Well, as for the last two, I’m still waiting for confirmation, but in Russia, anything is possible. Pirozhki is a perfect snack, and you can get them quite cheap, usually for less than a dollar.
You can find Pirozhki almost anywhere – near any slightly larger metro station, you’ll inevitably stumble upon at least one run-down bakery. Those are fine, but if you want to taste one of the world’s most delicious Pirozhki, head to Pirog House near the Marina Roscha metro station in Moscow.
Golubtsy (strangely meaning pigeons) are cabbage leaves stuffed with meat. They are often filled with meatballs, but I’ve also tried a vegetarian version made with mushrooms and rice, which was equally delicious. They don’t always have that tomato sauce drizzle on top like in the pictures, but if they don’t, they look quite unappealing. Give it a Google; I bet you won’t dare.
Olivier Salad (Оливье)
When I first came to Russia, I signed a pledge to myself. “I will eat healthily from now on,” I would declare to anyone willing to listen. I intended to live up to it, so I ordered a salad on my first restaurant visit, feeling clever and self-satisfied. But when it arrived, my eyes widened in terror. No veggies in sight – all I saw was a massive mountain of mayonnaise.
What’s the moral of this story? Just because it’s called a salad doesn’t mean it won’t add five inches to your waistline. And if it does, who cares? It’s delicious, and you’re beautiful just the way you are.
I could call this dish “seasoned rice with meat” to make it sound like the most boring food on earth. Or I could tell you to take out your wallet and try it yourself. This Uzbek specialty is the perfect companion to rice, perhaps the best thing you’ll ever have in your life. So, take out your wallet, and let’s go!
Apart from being a famous Moscow nightclub, Solyanka is also a delicious sour and spicy soup. The ingredient list sounds a bit discordant – pickles, olives, sausages, lemon, and cabbage, anyone? – but trust me.
Borscht needs little introduction – this humble beetroot soup is an international celebrity. Many countries try to claim it as their own, although I lean towards saying borscht is originally Ukrainian (sorry, my Russian readers just left…). But after tasting this delicious broth, you won’t care if it was made by Martians!
Oh, how Russians love their kvass! In the summer, you can’t miss those rusty trucks roaming around, exchanging sticky cups for small change – I’m pretty sure the liquid might freeze as it pours out, which is probably the only reason they don’t operate in winter.
Kvass is a beverage made from fermented black rye or bread and contains malt, much like beer. Unlike beer, it’s said to have trace amounts of alcohol, which is why Russian kids are allowed to consume it in abundance. However, Russia only classified beer as an alcoholic beverage in 2011 – so who really knows?