Russia is a huge country comprised of many different ethnicities and its cuisine is very diverse. Its dishes are influenced among others by Asian, Caucasian and European ways of cooking. For this reason Russia offers you a variety of traditional dishes to try and to find about more about the traditions they come from. Most recipes are based on wheat and vegetables and include soups, stuffed pastries and porridges.
A lot of dishes have their origins in the food of the rural peasants and are based on crops and vegetables that can survive in colder climates. For the aristocracy it was also popular to employ French chefs after Peter the Great invited one to his court. These chefs, after returning back to their home country then spread Russian dishes to Europe. One of the most famous one is the “Russian Salat” or “Olivier” how it is called in Russia. A lot of Russian dishes also include fish. This is due to the Orthodox church which limits the type of meat that is allowed to be consume on many days.
An important characteristic of the Russian cuisine is a large amount of appetizers called sakuzki. They are ordered with nearly every meal and are always offered when guests are invited. Sakuzki include pickles, herring, meat plates, sauerkraut, different salads, mushrooms.
Enjoy an overview of some of the most famous Russian dishes, which you should definitely try out.
The famous Olivier salad takes a central place among Russian sakuzki and it is traditionally eaten during the New Year celebrations. The salad was invented by the Belgian cook Lucien Olivier working in one of the most famous restaurants in Moscow. The modern version contains carrots, peas, pickles, eggs, potatoes as well as boiled beef or chicken and served with mayonnaise as the dressing.
Pelmeni are Russians national dish. Their origin is not entirely clear with some sources pointing to Siberia (with influence from China) and others to the Ural mountains. Pelmeni are dumplings filled with minced meat and sometimes vegetables and are boiled in hot water. You can get them in restaurants either as a main dish or as a side. They are often served with sour cream (called Smetana in Russian) or butter but also sometimes in a soup. If you want to try Pelmeni nearly every Restaurant in Russia will offer them, sometimes in different varieties.
Borscht is probably one of the most famous dishes that you will encounter in Russia. It is a soup based on beet and is originally from Ukraine. It contains meat as well as vegetables such as cabbage, potatoes or carrots. Usually it is eaten with a scoop of sour cream (called Smetana in Russia).
Pirozhki are pastries filled with meat or vegetables and mushrooms and can be found everywhere in Russian. Russian usually eat them as a midday snack or as an appetiser and you will find many vendors on the street selling them.
Blini is a pancake with different fillings. Sweet fillings include jam or chocolate while others are prepared with sour cream, caviar or cheese. Blini are so popular in the Russian kitchen that the spring festival Maslenitsa is also called pancake or butter festival for the amount of Blini that are eaten during it. In early Slavic history Blini were a symbol of the sun due to them being round and golden. You can find a blogpost from us about this festival here.
Russian is famous for its caviar, especially also due to many portrayals in Hollywood of wealthy people eating dishes with it. However caviar does not necessarily need to be expensive as there are many different varieties of it with the most expensive one probably being black caviar. Russians often eat it on bread with butter or as a garnish on other dishes.
If you think about Russia you probably also think about Vodka as this alcoholic beverage is closely linked with the perception of the country. Its origins are however still debated with many Eastern European countries claiming to be the originating country. What is known is that the word Vodka stems from the slavic word voda which means water. The ending -ka is sometimes used in slavic languages for the diminutive form and Vodka can therefore be interpreted as “little water”.