Traditional Russian food is divided into winter and summer dishes.
Most of Russia lies in the area of a continental climate: usually it is very cold in winter, and hot in summer. Some of the dishes are quite heavy – for cold winter months, and some – are very light for hot summer days.
The second factor that defines traditional Russian food – it’s the holidays. Some of the dishes are every day food, and others are only served on holidays.
Are you sure you want to try traditional Russian food?
For example, Russian cuisine 10 centuries ago consisted mainly of grain. There were porridges, and the difference in porridges was in how fine grains were ground and in cooking methods – nothing more. And, of course, there were baked goods – different in their appearance and in their names, but very similar in composition. Add to this list mushrooms and berries from the forest; and for a prosperous household also poultry, meat and milk – perhaps, that’s it.
If we take the period of the Mongol raids – there was scorched earth and demolished cities. At that time people sometimes had to get by only on pig weeds. Even steamed turnip was a luxury. If people were not killed during the raids, they died in winter of hunger and cold.
If we take the Middle Ages, Russian cuisine was divided according to the estates system. SomeRussian rulers were supportive of traditional Russian food, and, for example, liked shchi soup. Other Russian tsars during feasts amazed overseas guests with crazy eastern luxury –their tables had products from around the world to impress. What to choose?
What to choose in Russia or in a Russian restaurant?
We have put together a list of 5 traditional Russian dishes, all of which although not a thousand years oldbut are recognized as representatives of traditional Russian food.
1. Russian pancakes with caviar. This is either a festive affordable dish – pancakes with red caviar, or royal luxury – pancakes with black caviar. There are many different pancake recipes, but be prepared that it is a very filling meal. Frankly, to taste real Russian pancakes, you will have to get invited to a Russian home. In restaurants you would usually find a pitiful resemblance of Russian pancakes. We cannot boast of any restaurant that serves excellent pancakes. Tip: if you add to your filling – red caviar – a little Russian sour cream, it will take it to the next level! But, of course, it is better to eat pancakes in cold months.
2. Russian shchi (cabbage soup)is an eternally Russian soup. There was an infinite number of versions of Russian shchi. Even a cooking method had a great impact on the taste of the soup. Shchi is often referred to and translated as a cabbage soup. But not a single cabbage soup canbe compared in taste with the Russian shchi. Shchi – was a common traditional food of Russian people at any time of the day. Having meat in shchi was a sign of prosperity. Many Russian tsars did not imagine an everyday or even a holiday table without Russian shchi. Even the smell of shchi in a house was a sign that all was wella household. Proper shchi is prepared in a Russian stove in a pot. Sometimes chefs in small cafes manage to cook shchi on a regular stove, but restaurants are still at a loss – they will serve a nice bowl of shchi but nothing more. The secret of this dish is not in its ingredients, but in the cooking technology.
3. Okroshka – is a cold summer soup, a bright representative of traditional Russian cuisine. This soup is prepared using bread kvass. Basically, it is a finely chopped salad covered with kvass. During lent, okroshka is made without meat. At first, okroshka feels a little sour to the taste (the taste of kvass), but many people who ever tasted Russian okroshka can no longer imagine having lunch without it on a hot summer day.
4. Pies – stuffing inside of dough. Pies are dangerous for a figure, but impossible to resist. There are savory pies – with meat, eggs and fish. There are pies with sweet fillings – with berries, jam, cheese, and fruit. Well prepared pies are not greasy or dry. Real pies should melt in your mouth.
5. Guriev porridge is a true aristocrat among porridges. Guriev porridge is a dessert dish, by the way. Finding it on a menu is not just luck, it is almost an incredible adventure, because making it is not easy. Guriev porridge was invented about two centuries ago. The recipe incorporates the basic traditions of Russian cuisine in making porridges. Guriev porridge quickly became widespread among royalty. For example, Alexander III was very fond of Guriev porridge.
What didn’t make the “must try” list
Some well-known dishes we didn’t include on the list for several reasons.
Russian salad – even in five-star restaurants it is not cooked using the right recipe.
Pelmeni – this is a relatively recent Russian dish.
Borsch soup – this soup is more common in the southern Russian regions.
Medovukha – this low-alcohol drink made from honey is present in cuisines of many nations.
Russian vodka – because we stand for a healthy lifestyle.
Potato dishes – potatoes have just recently “sailed over” from the New World.
And remember, even if the taste of a dish from traditional Russian cuisine is a little different from the usual, a dish that was cooked from a heart is always verytasty!