Best Traditional Food
Since Russia is an Orthodox Christian country, Christmas, Easter and some other holidays are very popular and celebrated days. As in many other countries, also in Russia, feast days are closely connected with food, feasts and family gatherings. For Russian celebrations are typical tables filled with appetizers, salads, drinks, soups, main dishes, and desserts. Hosts who are trying to fulfill all the wishes of their guests and the whole family sharing food together. Traditional Russian holiday food and other traditions can differ according to different regions but let’s have a look at a few most typical and popular holidays and dishes.
Thanks to the fact that Orthodox Christians observe Julian Calendar, Christmas Day is mostly celebrated on 7th of January rather than 24th December. Advent in Russia is a period of fasting and Christmas Eve as well, so the traditional supper is usually meatless and consists of 12 dishes – in honor of Christ’s apostles. Sometimes even fish, alcohol, and vegetable oil are not allowed but many families serve at least fish or red wine. The dinner can start after the first star is seen in the sky to remember the star of Bethlehem, which announced the birth of Christ.
Two main dishes for Christmas Eve are kutia and vzvar. Kutia (also known as sochivo) is some sort of porridge or pudding and is made of wheatberries or some other grains, such as rice, barley or legumes. This porridge has usually sweet taste and it’s served with honey, dried fruits, nuts or poppy seeds. Usually, the whole family eats from a common dish which symbolizes the unity. Vzvar is fruit compote, which is made of dried fruits like apples, pears, cherries, currants, prunes or berries. Sometimes it can be mixed with honey or some other spices and boiled in water. It can be served both as a drink or a dessert.
Another Russian Christmas food is popular mushroom soup. Picking and preserving mushrooms is very famous activity in all Slavic countries and Russia is no exception. This soup is made of dried mushrooms and oil rather than butter (because of the fasting rules) and is served with pirozhki or pelmeni dumplings stuffed with non-meat filling. Some families prefer some other traditional Russian soups, such as borscht or solyanka.
Appetizers are an important part of traditional Russian Food Shop and they are served mostly after the soup course. Known also as zakuski these appetizers range from salads made with vegetable or sunflower oil to pickled vegetable, fish or shrimps. Pickled sauerkraut or cabbage is also very popular and can be present as an appetizer or as a filling in dumplings. Very popular Russian appetizer is also caviar. Staple dish on every Russian table, not only during Christmas time, is the Olivier salad. This popular salad is made of diced boiled potatoes, eggs, carrots, pickles, peas, meat and served with plenty of mayonnaise. Many different variations of this salad can be found in other Slavic countries.
Kulebyaka is traditional Russian salmon pie and is also very often a part of Russian Christmas table. Although not all families eat meat and eggs during fasting time so not all families serve this pie on Christmas Eve. This delicious turnover can be made of salmon, cod, carp, pike-perch or eel and with eggs, dill, rice or buckwheat. All this is encased in warm and delicious puff pastry together with mushrooms, onions and anything what family likes.
Another popular Christmas food in Russia, as well as traditional Russian food, is pelmeni. These Russian dumplings are mostly filled with ground beef, pork, garlic, and onion but during fasting time there can be also made as a vegetarian variant with vegetable mixture. It can be served with sour cream. Pirozhki are also a very popular dish and there are buns stuffed with meat or vegetable. The difference between pelmeni and pirozhki is the pastry. Pelmeni is made of thin and unleavened dough and the pastry of pirozhki is rich, crispy, soft and doughy.
Christmas table without desserts and sweet is no Christmas table. Popular Russian desserts are famous ginger and cinnamon cookies called priyaniki. These home-made cookies can be made filled with jam or with beautiful stamped decorations and dusted with sugar.
An important part of every Christmas table is beverages. Allowed are mostly only non-alcoholic drinks, such as spiced tea or sbiten, traditional Russian drink made of fruit jams, honey, and cinnamon. If the family tradition allows drinking alcohol sbiten can be also made as an alcoholic drink with red wine.
Easter holidays are also very popular and celebrated in Russia and there are three main dishes which have to be on every Russian Easter table.
Kulich is traditional cake freshly baked and topped with white icing and sometimes decorated with colorful sprinkles. Paskha is cheese dessert made of farmer cheese, eggs, sugar, cream, butter, candied fruits, raisins, and cinnamon. It is made in a pyramid shape and served mostly raw. Dyed and colored eggs are a common symbol of Easters all over the world and Russia is not an exception. Many different colors and decorations can be found on Easter table in Russia and many colored eggs are a real masterpiece.
Russia can offer a wide range of traditional dishes, which can be a bit surprising for many people but still very delicious. Thanks to the fact that Russia is a huge country, its food is influenced by many surrounding countries of Eastern Europe, Asia or the Middle East. Many traditional Russian dishes were already mentioned but there are plenty of others.
A very important part of every Russian table is soups. Russia can offer many different soups, vegetarian or with meat, thick and mostly full of vegetable.
Probably one of the most popular soups is Borscht, which is originally from Ukraine but became very famous in Russia and many other Slavic countries. This rich soup contains beet, cabbage, carrots, onions, and potatoes, and it is mostly served with sour cream and dill.
Another popular Russian soup is Shchi. It is a cabbage soup mostly made of potatoes, carrots, and onions but we can find many different local recipes.
Solyanka is thick soup full of meat and vegetable. This soup is famous for its sour flavor, which is caused by chopped pickles and lemon slices.
For those who like fish and seafood, a soup called Ukha is a perfect choice. It’s made of broth and different kinds of fish.
Pirozhki and pelmeni were already mentioned above and there are definitely one of the most popular dishes in Russia. Blini or blin is popular pancake made of wheat and rolled with many different fillings. It can be jam, chocolate syrup or sour cream but also cheese, onion or caviar.
Shashlyk is a Russian kebab made of cubed meat and variety of vegetables grilled on skewers.
It wouldn’t be Russia without caviar. There are many different types and colors of caviar and it can be served on black bread or with blini. Caviar on buttered bread is a very popular appetizer.
Beef Stroganoff is a delicious main course and it consists of strips of beef meat in a creamy sauce with mushrooms or tomatoes. It can be served with pasta, noodles, rice or potatoes. There are many variations of this recipe and there are all very delicious.
Vodka is probably the most well-known alcohol drink in Russia but Russians don’t drink only that. A popular non-alcoholic beverage is kvass. It is very refreshing and fermented drink, which is made of black or regular rye bread or dough.
There many other delicious and unique Russian foods and many of them are not hard to prepare at home. If you are interested in trying some, you can always visit the Russian table website, buy all the ingredients and surprise your family with tasty Russian dinner.
Russia is the largest country in the world and therefore there are many different habits, traditions, and customs. One of the Russian eating habits is having Russian-style black bread always on the table. This sour rye bread is served to all meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Russian people usually drink tea, beer or vodka before and after a meal.
Typical Russian table is large and has a place for all members of the family. The main course is usually served on a big plate. A small plate is for appetizers and side dishes and there should be always also a shot glass for vodka, glass for wine, and glass for water or juice. Plates with food are usually passed around the table and all people help themselves. If your plate is empty, host encourages you to eat more.
After the dinner ends, guests are expected to stay longer, drink and party. It is also normal to smoke during meals but it depends on every family habits.
Russia has many specific food habits and customs, and the best way how to see them is to visit Russia and enjoy its special and unforgettable atmosphere.